Next BSO Strathmore Season Includes Women, Space Themes
Programs at North Bethesda concert hall not affected by orchestra cutbacks
Music Director Marin Alsop conducts a performance last season.
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Women’s suffrage, the Hubble Space Telescope and Beethoven’s birthday – with one of the composer’s works performed by a rap artist – will be themes during the upcoming Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert season at Strathmore in North Bethesda, the orchestra announced Tuesday.
BSO will celebrate the anniversaries of each event with special performances paying homage to the moments in history. The 2019-20 Music Center at Strathmore season begins in September.
To honor the 100th anniversary of women’s voting rights in America, BSO Music Director Marin Alsop will welcome several female guest conductors, composers and artists to perform at the Strathmore.
“Considering it is 2019 and the country will be remembering and reflecting upon this significant moment in our history, I felt it was important to put together a season that represents the world as we all believe it should be,” Alsop said in a statement.
Alsop took over as music director in September 2007 and was the first woman to lead a major American orchestra.
The BSO has performed at the Strathmore since the venue opened in 2005, in addition to playing at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore.
The organization has struggled financially in recent years, and announced in December 2018 a proposal to cut its season from 52 weeks to 40, though the Strathmore won’t be affected.
BSO Vice President and General Manager Tonya McBride Robles said the main subscription season runs from September to June, and the Strathmore will maintain its normal number of shows during that stretch.
The BSO has lost an average of $1.6 million a year over the last decade, according to a Dec. 6 statement, but Robles said sales at the Strathmore “continue to be strong.”
Strathmore does very well in terms of attendance, typically operating at about 75 percent capacity, Robles said.
An extension of the collective bargaining agreement between the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Inc. and the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore union expired in mid-January, and both sides are still working on a long-term deal while operating under the previous agreement, according to a Jan. 15 news release.
The initiative “Beethoven 2020” celebrates the 250th anniversary of the German composer’s birth, and will close the 2020 season. The shows include Baltimore-based rapper Wordsmith performing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and a piece by Indian-American composer Reena Esmail.
In collaboration with New York’s Carnegie Hall, Alsop will conduct performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on five continents with nine orchestras as part of the “All Together: A Global Ode to Joy” project.
The BSO will also commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope launch with a performance of British composer Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” along with an appearance by a guest from NASA.
“We’re very proud and very excited about our programs, between the classical, pop and specials that we’re offering,” Robles said. “It shows the versatility of the orchestra, and there’s really something for everyone. All genres, all musical tastes.”
The 2019-20 season will open with a showing and performance of “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,” part of the BSO’s Movies with Orchestra program. The film will be shown on a large screen while the orchestra plays the score live. “Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi,” “Amadeus” and “The Wizard of Oz” will also be part of the initiative later in the season.
Strathmore will once again host the BSO’s Off The Cuff concerts, including performances of Johannes Brahms’ “Symphony No. 4,” Igor Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella” and Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Alsop will lead these shows while providing historical information about the piece, then answering audience questions after the concert.