Looking ahead to fall, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has announced plans for its 2022-2023 season, which marks the 40th anniversary of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
For its first 66 years, the BSO was housed at The Lyric in Mt. Vernon—at the time a regional ensemble working in a cramped space, experiencing fits and starts along the way. All that changed under the tutelage of Romanian conductor Sergiu Comissiona, who transformed the musical group into an internationally renowned orchestra.
This evolution was thanks in part to a new state-of-the-art venue on Cathedral Street, which made its public debut on September 16, 1982 with a performance by classical pianist Leon Fleisher. The 2,443-seat music hall—equipped with elegant, modern design and first-rate acoustics—would be named after local philanthropist Joseph Meyerhoff, who contributed $5 million to the project, or a third of the construction cost. From there, the rest, from tours abroad to the appointment of Marin Alsop as the first female conductor of a major American symphony, is history.
Those four decades at the Meyerhoff will be celebrated on September 17, when Jack Everly, principal conductor of the BSO’s Pops series, will kick off the season with an anniversary concert that also celebrates the rich history of jazz in Baltimore, with a special guest artist to be announced in June.
With performances at both the Meyerhoff in Baltimore and the orchestra’s sister-venue at the Strathmore in Bethesda, the rest of the season includes a mix of classical standards and an emphasis on choral performances, such as Verdi’s Requiem and Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish,” which will highlight a partnership with the University of Maryland Concert Choir and the Maryland State Boychoir, plus text written by Holocaust survivor Samuel Pisar. Patrons can also look forward to fan-favorite programs, like the BSO’s Live In Concert film series, featuring symphonic accompaniments to screenings of films such as Get Out, The Godfather, and Black Panther, and its more recent mash-up Fusion series, like a Tchaikovsky x Drake concert, combining 15 of the renowned rapper’s greatest hits with the iconic Fifth Symphony.
The Off The Cuff series will also carry on without maestra Marin Alsop, who stepped down from her post as Music Director this past October. The series will now feature a rotating roster of guest leadership, including the likes of Iceland Symphony Orchestra chief conductor Eva Ollikainen and LA Opera music director turned BSO Artistic Advisor James Conlon. In total, seven new conductors will make their BSO debuts this season, while eight will return for encore visits—Rune Bergmann, Robert Trevino, Jonathon Heyward, Kevin John Edusei, Peter Oundjian, Kwamé Ryan, Matthias Pintscher, and Christian Reif—making them likely candidates to replace Alsop.
Fear not—Alsop will be back as Music Director Laureate and still make several appearances on the Meyerhoff stage, including on February 17 and 19, when she’ll lead the ensemble through Titan, the original conception of Mahler’s first symphony, as well as the world premiere Tipping Point, a work by Chinese-born composer Huang Ruo that addresses climate change—one of the symphony’s multiple co-commissions.
The BSO is entering its second year in search of a new music director to replace Alsop, who also remains involved with the orchestra as the founder of OrchKids, the renowned music education program for Baltimore City youth. The organization is also seeking a replacement for former president Peter Kjome, who did not renew his contract when it expired in January.
“Our search for the BSO’s next Music Director drives the programs in our classical season,” said BSO COO Tonya McBride Robles in a statement. “Each program is designed as a showcase to display the brilliance of the orchestra, the music, and the artists in programs that will awaken all our senses through fantastical journeys in nature while nurturing a greater awareness of the world around us.”
This expanded perspective includes a modern take on Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, with BSO Artistic Partner Wordsmith presenting the experience of a Black soldier during the Vietnam War on November 6, and To Awaken the Sleeper on June 16 and 18, another world-premiere co-commission written by Emmy Award-winning composer Joel Thompson and inspired by the words of author James Baldwin. Meanwhile, assistant conductor Jonathan Rush will lead the inaugural GospelFest on April 27 and 28, featuring collaboration with the Morgan State and Howard University gospel choirs. In total, the new season will include 14 works by BIPOC composers.
For music lovers outside of Baltimore, the BSO will be kicking off a Music for Maryland Tour, which will include performances in every Maryland jurisdiction over the course of the next three years. In 2022, the musicians will visit the Carroll Community College Amphitheater in Carroll County, the Calvert Marine Museum in Calvert, Wilmer Park in Kent, and the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Howard, and the National Harbor in Prince George’s.
Back at the Meyerhoff, performances will once again take place in-person, with the online BSO Sessions docuseries still providing streamable viewing, as well as backstage interviews and other behind-the-scenes footage.