Marin Alsop hopscotches the nation


If you're traveling about the country during the next few weeks, don't be surprised if you bump into a major player from Baltimore's cultural stage: Marin Alsop, music director-to-be of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

She's conducting from coast-to-coast, starting tonight, when she leads the New York Philharmonic in a free concert on the Great Lawn of Central Park. Despite the heat wave, this may turn out to be one of the cooler spots in Manhattan.

Alsop has programmed a fun piece by John Adams, The Chairman Dances, derived from his opera Nixon in China, and Beethoven's evergreen Symphony No. 5. In between will be Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1, with Leila Josefowicz, a fast-rising young talent on today's scene, as soloist.

Then it's off to the Rocky Mountains for three more concerts with the New York Philharmonic, part of the orchestra's summer residency at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival in Colorado.

On Friday, Alsop's all-Beethoven program includes the Fifth Symphony again, as well as Leonora Overture No. 3 and Piano Concerto No. 4 (with soloist Jonathan Biss). Saturday's fare is all-Russian, including that Prokofiev Violin Concerto with Josefowicz, along with Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5.

Alsop wraps up her Philharmonic stint on Sunday with the Adams piece, Ravel's Piano Concerto (Jean-Yves Thibaudet at the keyboard) and Brahms' Symphony No. 1. (Information: 877-812-5700.)

She continues her westward travels next week, heading for the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, Calif., along the northern end of Monterey Bay. Alsop is marking her 15th anniversary as music director of the festival, which has been an extraordinary hotbed of cutting-edge sounds since the early 1960s.

The festival's legacy includes more than 80 world premieres and more than 50 U.S. premieres. At least 132 composers have participated over the years, from John Cage and Aaron Copland to Christopher Rouse and Joan Tower. Alsop's predecessors as music director include such composers as John Adams and Carlos Chavez and conductor Dennis Russell Davies.

As part of her anniversary Cabrillo season, Alsop will conduct the premiere of LIFE: A Journey Through Time, a multimedia work with music by Philip Glass and visuals by National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting. The imagery offers a look into evolutionary life on the planet; the score includes newly orchestrated works composed for smaller groups. There will be three performances, July 29-30.

(Can't get to California? Not to worry. Alsop will lead the East Coast premiere of LIFE with the BSO in February.)

The festival, which runs through Aug. 13, also offers works by Michael Daugherty, Kevin Puts, Aaron Jay Kernis and Nicholas Maw, whose opera Sophie's Choice will get its U.S. premiere with Alsop conducting in Washington in September. Guest artists for the Cabrillo Festival include Josefowicz and percussionist Evelyn Glennie. (Information: 831-426-6966.)

Temirkanov and G-8

In between all the weighty issues of the day, members of the just-concluded G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, took a little time out for music. At the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the famed St. Petersburg Philharmonic gave a short concert led by its longtime conductor, Yuri Temirkanov, the BSO's music director emeritus.

Temirkanov had planned a full program with works from each G-8 country (he chose Gershwin, one of his favorites, to represent the United States), but scheduling changes made just before the summit meant a smaller-scale affair.

From what I hear, celebrated Russian musicians, including baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and violist Yuri Bashmet, performed solo works with Temirkanov and the orchestra for a very intimate audience Saturday night - just G-8 heads of states and their immediate parties.

BSO at Artscape

The annual Artscape in Baltimore takes place practically in the shadow of the BSO's home, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, but the orchestra hasn't been a participant in the festival since 1997. This year, the BSO is back, giving two free programs on Saturday, led by associate conductor Andrew Constantine.

Selections include such familiar fare as Pachelbel's Canon, Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture and the finale of Stravinsky's Firebird, as well as such out-there fare as Jean Luc Ponty's New Country (with Ellen Pendelton Troyer on electric violin) and Michael Daugherty's Hell's Angels for bassoon quartet and orchestra.

The event starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, with a half-hour intermission between two, roughly 45-minute concerts. Meyerhoff Hall is at 1212 Cathedral St. No tickets required.

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