BSO plans playful summer

The Baltimore Sun

The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, video game theme music and Leon Fleisher -- not exactly your typical Baltimore Symphony Orchestra summer season.

On the classical side of the eclectic 2008 lineup, the BSO will celebrate the 80th birthday of Fleisher, one of the country's most gifted and respected musicians, with an all-Mozart program that will showcase both his pianistic and conducting skills. He'll lead the orchestra in Symphony No. 35 and No. 40 and, from the keyboard, Piano Concerto No. 12. Performances are July 24 at the Music Center at Strathmore and July 25 at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

BSO concertmaster Jonathan Carney will also do double duty as soloist and conductor for the reprise of a popular program from last season -- Vivaldi's evergreen Four Seasons and Astor Piazzolla's tango-inflected Four Seasons of Buenos Aires -- July 10 at Strathmore and July 11 at Meyerhoff.

An all-Tchaikovsky concert will be given July 17 at Strathmore, featuring conductor Christian Knapp and violinist Jennifer Koh. Music by Gershwin and Bernstein, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, will be the primary focus July 31 at Strathmore.

Meanwhile, back at Meyerhoff, the summer season will take a sharp, pop-culture turn. On July 18, the BSO will offer "PLAY! A Video Game Symphony," a multimedia production that has been presented with considerable success by several orchestras around the country. Music from such games as Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy and Super Mario Bros. will be performed, to the accompaniment of video graphics.

The Meyerhoff series closes Aug. 1 with the world premiere of Dead Symphony No. 6 by Lee Johnson, who has orchestrated and arranged greatest hits by the Grateful Dead, including "St. Stephen" and "China Doll." One movement of the symphony, centering on "Stella Blue," will call for improvisation from the orchestra. Grateful Dead memorabilia will be displayed in the lobby that night.

There will be more rockin' from the BSO on Aug. 2 at the Pier Six Pavilion at the Inner Harbor, where Brent Havens will conduct his orchestrations of Led Zeppelin favorites, including "Heartbreaker," "Immigrant Song" and, of course, "Stairway to Heaven." A rock band will join the BSO, as will vocalist Randy Jackson of the group Zebra.

The orchestra's return to Oregon Ridge this summer will also include distinctly nonclassical fare -- Billy and the Hillbillies will collaborate with the BSO on a bluegrass evening July 26. (In keeping with the down-home mood, there will be a pie-eating contest before the concert.)

The Oregon Ridge series, which includes fireworks at every performance, opens with a Fourth of July-theme program conducted by Constantine Kitsopoulos July 3-5. A "BSO Idol" competition will be held before the performances to choose the solo singers for the national anthem each night.

"Hocus Pocus" is the theme July 19 at Oregon Ridge when the BSO will perform works from Harry Potter movies and other wizard-related repertoire.

Also on the summer schedule is a free matinee concert July 19 conducted by Joseph Young at Meyerhoff as part of the annual Artscape.

For more information, call 410-783-8000, 877-276-1444 or go to

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