BSO Unveils Lineup for Marin Alsop's First Season

By Tim Page
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

BALTIMORE, Feb. 27 -- Marin Alsop, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's incoming music director, announced an exciting and unusual inaugural season Tuesday that will feature all nine of Beethoven's symphonies as well as major works by 11 living composers.

It will be the first time that the BSO has played the entire Beethoven cycle in one season. The 2007-08 programming also includes works by leading composers Aaron Jay Kernis, Steven Mackey and Joan Tower. Five composers -- John Adams, Tan Dun, James MacMillan, Thomas Ades and HK Gruber -- will conduct their own music.

It is an infinitely more thought-provoking season than the one the National Symphony Orchestra offered for 2006-07, which has been much criticized for its timidity and reiteration of standard repertory. The NSO will announce its 2007-08 season, the last under the direction of Leonard Slatkin, next Tuesday.

"Conceptualizing this season and weaving it together was a wonderful challenge and tremendous fun," Alsop, the first woman in history to take on the leadership for a full-time, full-size and top-ranking American orchestra, said in a statement. "This inaugural season with the Baltimore Symphony offered me an opportunity to capitalize on the strengths and history of a terrific orchestra and set out my vision for an orchestra in the 21st century."

Hence, subscribers will be able to hear a symphonic classic by Beethoven along with a contemporary work on the same evening. And the price will be remarkably low.

Because this year marks the 25th anniversary of the opening of Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, PNC Financial Services Group has donated $1 million toward making all subscription tickets for both pops and classical concerts available at $25 apiece, a savings of up to $53. The PNC Foundation is based in Pittsburgh, but the Baltimore-based Mercantile Bankshares Corp. and its affiliate banks are expected to merge with PNC in early March, subject to final regulatory approval. (The price reduction will not apply to weekly concerts at the Music Center at Strathmore.)

The BSO will also make its first Carnegie Hall appearance in three years, and record two symphonies by Antonin Dvorak for the Naxos label.

The Alsop years officially will begin with a gala concert on Sept. 15 at Meyerhoff. No details of the program have been announced, but a spokeswoman for the BSO said the evening would feature "a cast of hundreds, including local dancers, singers, choral groups, marching bands, drum lines and other community musicians."

The subscription season gets underway at Strathmore on Sept. 27 with a program featuring Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 and Adams's "Fearful Symmetries." The program will be repeated the next three nights at Meyerhoff. Adams will be back the following week to lead a program of his own works, as well as Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.

Other guest conductors will include Gunther Herbig, Hans Graf, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, and Yuri Temirkanov, BSO's music director emeritus. The list of visiting soloists includes pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Andre Watts, as well as violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

The Baltimore Symphony also announced a conducting fellows program, to be undertaken in conjunction with the Peabody Conservatory. Alsop's great mentor was the late Leonard Bernstein, and she seems determined to honor his memory. Initially, one conductor will be selected to work closely with Alsop, the staff and musicians of the BSO, including coaching in conducting technique, interpretation, musician relations, programming and season planning. The fellowship is expected to grow in coming years to accommodate as many as three participants.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company