Marin’s Baltimore farewell is looking meagre

The Baltimore Symphony has rolled out its next season, Marin Alsop’s last as music director.

Apart from a co-produced Fidelio and Mahler’s 2nd symphony, it looks a post-lockout economy season with few top-price soloists except Hahn.

Here’s the rundown:

Maestra Alsop has planned a season that highlights some of her greatest musical passions.

Renowned violinist Hilary Hahn joins Marin Alsop and the Orchestra in Brahms’ Violin Concerto for the Season Opening Gala concert in September. Alsop and the BSO continue their celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday as she leads the Orchestra, chorus and soloists in Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio. In a production re-imagined for today’s society by Heartbeat Opera, the opera’s Prisoner’s Chorus will be sung on video by current prison inmates in an adaptation that has been called “imaginative, vital and heartbreaking,” by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross. A Beethoven Birthday Bash concludes the celebration as conductor Anna Rakitina leads Beethoven’s popular Symphony No. 5, as well as Beethoven’s popular Fourth Piano Concerto with pianist Jeremy Denk.

Other highlights of the BSO’s 2020-21 classical season include orchestral works that are particularly meaningful to Maestra Alsop, including Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Mozart’s Requiem, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. Rachmaninoff’s The Bells, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Bells,” is presented in partnership with Baltimore’s Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum as part of the International Poe Festival. The Rite of Spring, famous for riots after its premiere in Paris, is paired with Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins, which includes seven scenes – each devoted to one of the seven deadly sins.

The BSO also continues its commitment to the performance of new music. Christopher Theofanidis’ Drum Circles features four percussion soloists of The Percussion Collective, and Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick Suite is drawn from Heggie’s original opera and inspired by Melville’s iconic novel. Other new works include Judit Varga’s JUMP! and Texu Kim’s Spin-Flip. The 2020-21 season closes with a world premiere by Angélica Castelló, co-commissioned by the BSO and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

A number of BSO musicians are featured throughout the 2020-21 season as soloists, including Katherine Needleman, Harrison Miller, Audrey Wright and Lachezar Kostov in Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat Major; YaoGuang Zhai in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto; and Jonathan Carney and Dariusz Skoraczewski in Brahms’ Concerto for Violin and Cello.

Guest Artists: A number of the world’s top soloists join the Orchestra for the 2020-21 season including violinists Hilary Hahn, Ning Feng and Augustin Hadelich; pianists André Watts, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yefim Bronfman, Lukáš Vondráček and Louis Lortie; and cellists Alban Gerhardt and Pablo Ferrández.

BSO Debuts: Several guest artists make their BSO debut in the 2020-21 season including cellist Pablo Ferrández, violinist Ning Feng, vocalist Yolanda Adams and conductor Eun Sun Kim.

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  • “Rite of Spring”, “Daphnis et Chloe”, “The Bells”, Mahler 2, “Seven Deadly Sins” . . . that lineup doesn’t seem so meagre to me (Spellcheck shows it to be “meager”, but I like your “meagre”).

    • “meagre” is an acceptable alternate spelling. But you’re right – I wish our local orchestra would have such a meagre season!! Too much Beethoven for me, but the rest is pretty good. How can anyone give this comment a Thumbs Down?

      • Isn’t language interesting. In Britain we would say that “meagre” was an alternative spelling of “meagre”, as alternate here means “every other”.

    • Your spellcheck must be American. Everyone else in the known universe spells it “meagre.” This is an English website.

      • Actually a lot of the known universe now conforms to American spelling but it’s only the Brits who haven’t noticed it and make a fuss about this minor issue.

  • For a cash-strapped orchestra, it seems to me rather a nice season.

    And any season that includes both Thibaudet and Lortie is all right by me.

    • And Hadelich, Bronfman and Gerhardt!

      Are their fees all significantly less than Hahn’s? And if so, who cares about how “high-priced” they are, when they’re of high quality?

  • Looks rather Festive to me. A season for other orchestras to emulate, IMHO. Congrats and thanks to Marin.

  • You Europeans try putting on a season in American circumstances, see how you do….

    This does everything it needs to. Marin will be back plenty after the coming year, she’s basically now the principal guest, it’s in no sense a goodbye. The most important things is to find a replacement, and if these are the candidates, the prospects are thoroughly decent, some of them are even great.

  • The only way I would see that “reimagined” opera is if I were a prisoner myself and chained to my seat.
    Sounds perfectly dreadful.

  • Who cares???? Marin Alsop belongs to the past. She is not a good musician or an inspiring conductor. She is just a female conductor who made a career based on the fact that she is a female conductor, nothing more. It’s time for her to retire and make room for those female and male conductors who can actually conduct, hear and inspire audiences.

    • That’s worth noting. They look pretty much the same to a casual observer, but there’s a crucial difference.

      A strike is initiated by the labor (musicians in this case). They tell management, in effect, “we won’t come back to work unless you meet our requirements X, Y, and Z.”

      A lockout is initiated by the management. They tell the workers, “we won’t let you come back to work unless you meet our requirements X, Y, and Z.”

  • Baltimore is better without MA… I played under her twice and that was enough for me and my colleagues. She bounces twice on every beat, she can’t really hear anything and she can’t conduct late romantic music (Mahler in particular). I can’t imagine how it feels to be working with her for 14 years!

  • Alsop is the worst Mahler conductor ever. I feel sorry for those musicians who have to play that Mahler 2nd under her and for those audience members who have never heard this symphony before and will be listening to it for the first time performed by her.

    • Oh, please. Take a moment to stop and read what you typed out. “Audience members who have never heard this symphony before” . . . . will be dazzled, regardless of who conducts it. People – first comers, especially – get carried away by the music, not by who’s waving the stick.

  • Wow, that’s a pretty awful press release!

    “…Anna Rakitina leads Beethoven’s popular Symphony No. 5, as well as Beethoven’s popular Fourth Piano Concerto with pianist Jeremy Denk.”

    How popular!

    “The Rite of Spring, famous for riots after its premiere in Paris, is paired with Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins, which includes seven scenes – each devoted to one of the seven deadly sins.”

    …you don’t say!

    • Norman periodically ranks PR departments of music institutions. I hope that crappy writing like this, which has all the stylistic earmarks of a 5th-grad book report, or the recent tone deaf issuances of the Washington National Opera, are factors in his assessment.

      • Doesn’t Norman rate the PR departments on how helpful they are when he contacts them rather than how well they write?

  • *In a [Fidelio] production re-imagined for today’s society by Heartbeat Opera, the opera’s Prisoner’s Chorus will be sung on video by current prison inmates in an adaptation that has been called “imaginative, vital and heartbreaking,” by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross.*

    Oh, joy.

    • “the opera’s Prisoner’s Chorus will be sung on video by current prison inmates in an adaptation that has been called “imaginative, vital and heartbreaking,” by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross.”

      Sounds deeply patronising and exploitative.

      Oh, yes, and I think Beethoven is concerned with *political* prisoners, not murderers, rapists, etc.

      Coming next:

      “Hey, couldn’t we get a real hunchback to sing Rigoletto?”

      “Where do they have slaves these days? I want some real ones to sing the chorus in Nabucco.”

      “Could we get a real head from somewhere for Salome?”

      “I know someone who killed a boy. Let’s train him up to sing Peter Grimes! Ooh, the frissons and resonances!”

  • OK, enough with the Alsop bashing. Let’s not forget that she was brought to Baltimore by 2 imbeciles who had virtually decimated the BSO’s finances – Phillip English and James Glicker – and they appointed Marin without consulting the orchestra players, all of whom were demoralized by the sudden resignation of Yuri Temirkanov (who became disgusted with the BSO’s management team). So, Marin walked into a lose-lose situation, but she managed to hold down the fort for 14 years – which is no small achievement. OK, so she’s not Furtwangler, but she’s an honest musician and a skillful manager and survivor. A Music Director’s position is not for sissies, and clearly Marin Alsop earned her stripes at the BSO. Of course it’s nice to have a towering musical genius for a Music Director – but (as Temirkanov demonstrated) that’s simply not enough, particularly in a community such as Baltimore.

    • Absolutely true on all counts. I’d add however that Temirkanov, great a conductor as he often was and is, didn’t treat the BSO any more responsibly than Glicker or English. He cancelled again and again with little notice, one time an entire month of concerts, he basically fired seven principles all at once and was never around for long enough to retrain the orchestra into a cohesive ensemble. Alsop is not responsible for the problems, she did the best she was given with problems that were already there.

      • Furthermore, I can tell you that Alsop left an indelible mark as Music Director (whatever her actual title was) of the Cabrillo (modern) Music Festival, based in Santa Cruz. She can’t be that bad to work with, because musicians flocked in from various U.S. locales to play the festival. I watched her conduct the festival orchestra numerous times and saw nothing wrong with her baton technique. Granted, many of the works were premieres, or had never been recorded.

      • It was no secret that the genius Temirkanov was an internationally renowned prima donna with recurring health problems, and far above the BSO’s league – but the orchestra could forgive him anything for the magical musical moments he drew out of them. But Glicker & English were nincompoops who had hijacked the BSO for their own purposes: Who can forget when the “diplomatic” James Glicker told the press “I’m going to teach this orchestra a lesson”… Needless to say, the BSO was Glicker’s first and last orchestra job.

    • Ludwig:

      What you write seems a fair assessment. Alsop is reasonably competent as a conductor and music director. She does a reasonable job, and is a reasonable fit for Baltimore.

  • and in the upcoming Tristan und Isolde, the shepherd boy’s sad tune will appear on video played by an actual shepherd boy tending the sheep in Cornwall.To continue the travesty, in next month’s Madame Butterfly, the Humming Chorus will be videoed in live by the Women’s Chorus of Yokohama and for Il Trovatore, along w/ Di Quella Pira, the army chorus will be supplied (on video, of course) by the men of the Second Armored Division, Fort Hood Texas.

  • There’s more ways to measure a season than by the fees commanded by name-brand soloists. We get their excellent principal clarinetist in the Mozart Concerto (though Nielsen, Corigliano, or Francaix would have been better), an interesting Rachmaninov program (marred only by the overplayed PC #2), and some other compelling programs. It may be hard to appreciate on the other side of the pond, but they’re a terrific orchestra playing in a fairly distressed town; it’s not easy.

  • Watts, Thibaudet and Bronfman are not on a par with Bell and Hahn… ? Really? André Watts is not a “top-price” soloist?

  • Meanwhile, an hour south the NSO has: Lang Lang, Ax, Kavakos, and Salonen (2 weeks). The BSO has to compete with that and get some conductors who generate a little buzz.

    • The NSO has much better funding (and pay) as a member of the Kennedy Center. Hearing them both regularly in recent years, I still think Baltimore is the better orchestra, though the NSO has been sounding more like an orchestra since Noseda came on board.

  • “A number of the world’s top soloists join the Orchestra for the 2020-21 season including violinists Hilary Hahn, Ning Feng and Augustin Hadelich; pianists André Watts, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yefim Bronfman, Lukáš Vondráček and Louis Lortie; and cellists Alban Gerhardt and Pablo Ferrández.”

    Looks pretty good, definitely not meager.

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