Charm City Classical

Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra announced their eight season together this week. Photo: BSO
Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra announced their eight season together this week. Photo: BSO

The 2014-15 classical-music season took shape in Baltimore this week as both Shriver Hall and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra announced their upcoming seasons.

“In Baltimore” is actually misleading, since one of the biggest innovations of the BSO season is a series of five Sunday afternoon performances at the orchestra’s second home at Strathmore, a stop on the Washington, DC metro. The matinees will expand on the orchestra’s Off the Cuff series, which presents an in-depth exploration of a single work; now, Strathmore audiences can hear both the introduction (on Friday evenings) and the complete concert (on Sunday afternoons). Given that the National Symphony Orchestra has stopped doing its occasional Friday matinees, these Sunday concerts will also be welcome for those in the DC region who prefer to hear orchestral music during daylight hours.

The orchestra is also celebrating its 10th anniversary in Strathmore with a gala concert in February.

The BSO’s season focuses on “spirituality and transcendence,” a popular theme in recent years as the Lincoln Center’s White Nights festival and other organizations seek to connect audiences with what is arguably the motivating force of much Western classical music. In Baltimore, the rubrik includes works with clear spiritual ties — Mozart’s “Great” mass, Jennifer Higdon’s “blue cathedral,” Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” and Christopher Rouse’s “Rapture” — and ones in which the link is more implicit. Few would argue with the description of the Mahler 3rd and 4th symphonies, which both include explicit visions of heaven, or the Beethoven 9th as “spiritual.”

A bit more of a stretch in this rubric, though an enjoyable addition to the program, is Bernstein’s “Candide,” which the orchestra will perform in June in a semi-staged performance, with Patti LuPone.

“Spirituality is an extremely personal journey,” Alsop said in a press statement, “and that is the profound beauty of music: its message is always an individual, personal one.”

For the rest, the season offers a balanced mix of classics (Alsop will conduct both Rachmaninoff’s first and second piano concertos, played by Queen Elisabeth Competition-winner Boris Giltburg and Garrick Ohlsson respectively) with the less-known and contemporary. Arild Remmereit will lead a concert overture by the Swedish composer Elfride Andree along with the Third Symphony by her coeval Tchaikovsky; Alsop will juxtapose “Rite of Spring” with Golijov’s “Rose of the Winds;” Colin Currie will play a percussion concerto written for him by James MacMillan. Hannu Lintu, Nicolas McGegan, and Cristian Macelaru are among the season’s other guest conductors.

The Shriver Hall series, meanwhile, offers its usual roster of high-profile and intriguing artists with, this season, a particular focus on pianists. Helene Grimaud, Daniil Trifonov (appearing with the violinist Gidon Kremer) Marc-Andre Hamelin (with the chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy), and Richard Goode will all give recitals in 2014-15. Also on the program are the soprano Danielle de Niese, the cellist Steven Isserlis, and the Jerusalem and Belcea Quartets.

Anne Midgette came to the Washington Post in 2008, when she consolidated her various cultural interests under the single title of chief classical music critic. She blogs at The Classical Beat.
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