The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is the first major orchestra in the area to break from the starting gate, with its Baltimore Symphony Orchestra 2007 Celebration Gala (September 15) at Meyerhoff Hall. We are going to be spilling a considerable amount of virtual ink covering the inaugural season of the BSO's new music director, Marin Alsop, the first woman appointed to lead a major American orchestra. As expected, she has come into the position with a full head of steam, putting together some exciting programs, with a larger helping of contemporary music than recent years have featured. For many of the programs showcasing living composers, she has invited the composers to speak to audiences in a new series called Composers in Conversation. Upcoming appearances at Baltimore Theater Project include John Adams (September 26), Tan Dun (October 10), HK Gruber (October 17), and Aaron Jay Kernis (November 28).
Maestra Alsop officially conducts her first concert later this month, on September 27 -- at Strathmore! This program, combining Adams's Fearful Symmetries with Mahler's fifth symphony will kick off the Meyerhoff season, too, on September 28. There will be more Adams, this time with Beethoven's seventh (October 4 to 7), Tan Dun conducting his own The Map (October 11 to 14), Garrick Ohlsson playing the Barber piano concerto (October 25 to 28), and the return of Günther Herbig (November 8 to 11). Do not forget that the BSO, in honor of the 25th anniversary of Meyerhoff Hall, is offering all subscription tickets to concerts there for $25. The demand for subscription seats has reportedly been so high that it has delayed the mailing of tickets. It will be good to see the Meyerhoff with more of the seats filled.
The National Symphony Orchestra opens the year with a much anticipated Season Opening Ball Concert, featuring Renée Fleming and pianist Peng Peng (September 16). (La Fleming will also be singing at a Benefit Concert for the Baltimore Opera on December 8. She is apparently doing nothing but gala and benefit concerts this season.) The NSO season proper gets under way with the Beethoven ninth (October 4 to 6), Midori playing the second Bartók violin concerto (October 11 to 13), Emanuel Ax playing the Brahms second concerto (October 18 to 20). Later in the season, you can look forward to Nikolaj Znaider with Iván Fischer (November 1 to 3), Emmanuel Palud (November 8 to 10), and the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony (November 29 to December 1).
Visiting orchestras this fall, many of them sponsored by Washington Performing Arts Society, include the La Scala Philharmonic at Strathmore with conductor Riccardo Chailly (October 10), the Cleveland Orchestra playing Adams's Guide to Strange Places at the Kennedy Center (October 15), the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Strathmore with pianist Yefim Bronfman (October 18), the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra in a free concert at the Library of Congress (October 22), Yuri Temirkanov coming back to the area with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic at the Kennedy Center (October 23), the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra with Andre Watts at George Mason (November 4), and the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kennedy Center (December 6).
Sometimes the local university orchestras offer more interesting programs than their professional counterparts. A few highlights include the University of Maryland Symphony playing Shostakovich's Babi Yar symphony and Sibelius's seventh (October 26), the Peabody Concert Orchestra playing Corigliano's Promenade Overture (October 5), and Marin Alsop conducting the Peabody Symphony Orchestra in music by Adams, Bernstein, and Shostakovich (October 31).
Many string quartets are making exciting appearances, beginning with the Kronos Quartet and its new program Awakening at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (September 7). The Emerson Quartet returns for its series with the Smithsonian Resident Associates, concerts in the auditorium of the National Museum of Natural History. The programs include the Brahms quartets they have recently recorded (review forthcoming), as well as new works by Kaija Saariaho and Bright Sheng (September 15 and December 9). The Guarneri Quartet continues their series of open (and free) rehearsals at the Clarice Smith Center, beginning on September 26.
Other highlights include the Parker String Quartet in a free concert at the Baltimore Museum of Art (October 6), Ionarts favorite the Takács Quartet at Wolf Trap (October 12), the Ariel Quartet with violist Roger Tapping at the Corcoran (also October 12), the Cypress Quartet on the Dumbarton Concerts series (October 13), the Ying Quartet playing all of the Stravinsky works for string quartet at the Kreeger Museum (November 10), and the New Zealand String Quartet at the National Academy of Sciences (free, November 11). The Quatuor Ysaÿe (November 16), the Jerusalem Quartet (December 8), and the Formosa Quartet (Stradivari Anniversary Concert, December 14) will all play on the free concert series at the Library of Congress, and the Leipzig Quartet celebrating Beethoven's birthday, thanks to the Embassy Series, will appear at the National Gallery of Art (also free, December 16).
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein, photo courtesy of the Piatigorsky Foundation
One of our favorite modern music ensembles, the Contemporary Music Forum, begins its yearly series at the Corcoran on September 23. Another one, the Post-Classical Ensemble, will be presenting another film screening with live music, Aaron Copland's The City, at Clarice Smith (October 14). The group Alarm Will Sound will perform for the free Founder's Day Concert at the Library of Congress, with music by Nancarrow, Ligeti, Birtwistle (October 30). The Left Bank Concert Society has several concerts scheduled, including a program featuring two-piano arrangements of Beethoven's Grosse Fugue and The Rite of Spring at the Kennedy Center (November 17). The 21st Century Consort's first concert, with soprano Lucy Shelton, will be at the Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture on October 27. They will also give what looks like welcome relief from the same old, same old Christmas concerts, with A Child's Christmas in Wales at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (December 8).
Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, photo courtesy of Young Concert Artists
The Moscow Sretensky Monastery Choir embarks on its first North American tour this week, and we have heard good things. They will make a stop in Washington for a concert at the Library of Congress, which opens the free concert series there on September 12. Solo recitals this fall include Nathan Gunn at the Châteauville Foundation in Castleton Farms, Va. (September 23), promising mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke on the Young Concert Artists series at the Kennedy Center (September 30), Christian Gerhaher at the Austrian Embassy (Vocal Arts Society, October 11), François Loup at Clarice Smith singing Die Winterreise (October 19 and 21), Anne Schwanewilms (Vocal Arts Society, October 30), Measha Brueggergosman at the Baltimore Museum of Art (November 3 -- and thanks to Vocal Arts Society at the Austrian Embassy on November 7), Dmitri Hvorostovsky at Strathmore (November 20), and Kathleen Battle at the Kennedy Center (December 7).
HISTORICALLY INFORMED PERFORMANCE:
We are blessed in Washington with a vibrant early music scene. The Folger Consort opens its season with a program of French and Italian cantatas called Groves of Antiquity, with Rosa Lamoreaux and the usual suspects, in the beautiful theater of the Folger Shakespeare Library (October 5 to 7). The Rebel Ensemble is giving a mostly Vivaldi program at Clarice Smith (October 7), with a similar program sponsored by the Friends of Music at Dumbarton Oaks (October 14 and 15). Other visiting groups include Café Zimmermann playing a free concert of J. S. Bach and C. P. E. Bach at the Library of Congress (November 3), the duo of Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr at Clarice Smith (November 4), and the Four Nations Ensemble joining with Opera Lafayette and mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne for A Rococo Noël at La Maison Française (December 2).
Somehow we ended up with no fewer than three concert festivals devoted to the Brandenburg Concerti this fall. The one likely to be the best is the last chronologically, a complete performance of all six by the select chamber music ensemble of the Orchestra of St. Luke's (December 19 and December 20). Before that, the Washington Bach Consort will christen the new downtown venue, the Harman Center for the Arts (attached to the Shakespeare Theater), with a performance of the Brandenburgs (November 11). The truly Brandenburg-obsessed listener could also attend the Brandenburg Festival at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church, featuring the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra (November 25), in which concerts at 1 pm and 5 pm (not all of the Brandenburgs) bookend a set of lectures on Bach and lunch.
Washington Bach Consort does the city an important service with its free Noontime Cantata Series, on the first Tuesday of every month at the Church of the Epiphany (13th and G Streets NW). This season opens with BWV 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (God's time is the best time of all), on October 2. Probably the only performance of Handel's M-Word that we will endorse this year will be the inventively staged Messiah offered by the American Opera Theater, at Georgetown's Davis Center (December 7 to 9). Also noteworthy in the holiday concert arena, the all-vocal ensemble Pomerium will give a program of Renaissance Christmas music, Creator of the Stars: Christmas Music from the Old World, on the Friends of Music series at Dumbarton Oaks (December 9 and 10), and the Folger Consort will present the Second Shepherds' Play at the Folger Shakespeare Library (December 12 to 30).
ALSO OF INTEREST:
Alex Ross's highly anticipated book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, will be published in October. On his upcoming book tour, Alex will be speaking twice in the Washington-Baltimore area: first at Politics and Prose here in Washington (November 20) and second at An die Musik LIVE in Baltimore (December 4).