Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra were given a rock star welcome by a packed house of devoted fans as they returned home to the Music Center at Strathmore on Saturday to perform their opening concert of the 2013-2014 Season.
With a nod to the anniversary of the War of 1812, the BSO commissioned multiple arrangements of The Star Spangled Banner for performance in the current season, leading to Saturday’s concert beginning with a moody, rumbling arrangement by James Lee III. As Alsop warned, the arrangement did not lend itself to audience participation, but it did allow a moment for reflection on the turbulent but hopeful times we are experiencing in our community, our country, and the world.
The highlight of the concert was the well-conceived opening night programming of Scheherazade, Op. 35, a gorgeous work by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov that provided a perfect opportunity to showcase the talents of BSO musicians from throughout the orchestra. As each musician took his or her turn in the spotlight, I found myself swelling with pride and so grateful for the many individually talented people who come together on the stage to create the magical sound of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Concertmaster Jonathan Carney is simply a joy to watch and to hear, no matter what music he plays. There is no note, no dynamic, and no expressive gesture that he considers unimportant in any piece of music he performs. Scheherazade, when well played, is for both musicians and audience like the experience of falling into a dream of every color, texture, sound, and emotion conceivable and then finding out that there is no dream at all, just possibility. Jonathan Carney is a guy who makes us believe in just how big and wonderful possibility can be.
The second half of the concert opened with Saxophone Concerto, a new two-movement work by John Adams recently co-commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony, and the Orchestra Sinfonica do Estado de São Paulo. Adams composed the concerto for saxophonist Timothy McAllister, who made his debut with the BSO performing this work in this concert. The piece has a modern jazzy blues feeling to it that at times brings to mind the sometimes chaotic and always changing sounds of a busy American city, and it was well performed by Mr. McAllister.
The concert concluded with the United States Navy Band Sea Chanters joining the BSO for a spirited performance of the Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture. Although not planned, the performance was particularly poignant in view of a tragic shooting at Navy Yard earlier in the week. With Marin asking the audience to offer a moment of silent reflection honoring the twelve victims who lost their lives in this senseless act of violence, the performance was met by a very supportive audience. The Sea Chanters produced a beautiful sound, and Marin Alsop did a wonderful job of balancing the sound and size of the BSO with the surprisingly small number of singers comprising the vocal ensemble. As the percussion section drove to prominence in the performance, the audience could be seen cheering and smiling with every explosion of sound until they simply erupted into thunderous and screaming applause in an extended standing ovation and multiple curtain calls for a very well deserving Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
There is so much to celebrate about the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In a time when most orchestras, including the BSO, continue to struggle with financial concerns, Marin Alsop, certainly among the leading conductors in the world, just renewed her contract and commitment to lead the orchestra to the 2020-2021 Season. The musicians of the orchestra, who along with Ms. Alsop have sacrificed and supported the orchestra in every way possible through rough financial times, just ratified a new three-year contract. Devoted to great music, artistic excellence, and to community and educational outreach, the orchestra continues to lead and define the new world of orchestra with its commitment to programs including its new Music Box Series, BSO on the Go, OrchKids, the Baltimore Youth Symphony, Rusty Musicians, and with fabulous support for emerging composers and developing conductors. What more could we ask?
Scheherazade and 1812 Overture! played on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at The Music Center at Strathmore – 5301 Tuckerman Lane, in North Bethesda, MD. For tickets for future Strathmore events, go to their website.
The 2013-2014 Baltimore Symphony Orchestra season is off and running. Next up, Marin and the BSO welcome famed pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who joins the orchestra in performances of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety, and the Piano Concerto in G Major, by Maurice Ravel. The concerts will take place at 8 pm on Thursday, September 26th at the Music Center at Strathmore, and at 8 pm on Friday, September 27th and Saturday, September 28th at the Meyerhoff, in Baltimore. Don’t miss it!
Check The Season at a Glance Calendar for upcoming Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Concerts at the Music Center at Strathmore and the Meyehoff – 1212 Cathedral Street, in Baltimore, MD. Tickets may be purchased online, or by calling the BSO Box Office at (410) 783-8000.