Monday, October 1, 2007

Mahler in Baltimore

Apparently Michael Tilson Thomas was not the only conductor to launch a subscription season with Mahler this past week. On the other side of the continent, Marin Alsop opened the subscription series of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with Mahler's fifth symphony. Rather than coupling her Mahler with a work on the scale and period of a Mozart symphony, she, instead, began her program with John Adams' "Fearful Symmetries," which clocks in at an uninterrupted half-hour. Since this was Alsop's debut as the music director of the Baltimore Symphony, making her the first woman to hold such a position, The New York Times decided that this concert was worth covering and sent Anthony Tommasini to do the job. His account is worth reading on several scores, but I am glad to see that he spent more time on the music than on the feminist angle. I was particularly happy to see his emphasis on the attention that Alsop plans to give to living composers. This is no surprise to those of us who know her primarily by her work in California, and I am pleased that she plans to move this emphasis from festival settings to the more mainstream subscription series.

Tommasini also gave an encouraging account of her interpretation of Mahler. Whether she will become a contender in what I have speculated may be a period of "Mahler turf wars" remains to be seen (and heard). For now the good news is that she seems to have command of the attention span of the mainstream subscriber audience of Baltimore, getting an enthusiastic reception after leading them first through the uninterrupted half-hour of Adams followed by the more massive scale of the Mahler fifth. Tommasini also reported that XM Satellite Radio will be broadcasting eight of this season's concerts, allowing an even wider audience to appreciate what Alsop will be bringing to Baltimore.

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