Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Announces New Digital Concert Series: BSO Sessions

An Extension of BSO OffStage: Showcasing BSO Musicians, Orchestral Masterpieces and Hidden Gems and Documentary-Style Content Premiering October 14

September 29, 2020 – The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) today announced BSO Sessions, a new digital concert series that follows the BSO’s journey in bringing inspirational works of orchestral repertoire to life as its musicians return to the stage. BSO Sessions will be exclusively available on a newly expanded and improved BSO OffStage, a virtual platform for sharing orchestral performances and content now with enhanced streaming capabilities.

With video direction and production support provided by the Maryland-based and award-winning firm Early Light Media, weekly BSO Sessions concerts will be curated for classical music afficionados and the musically curious alike. Programs will include beloved masterpieces; music by living composers and composers of color; and hidden treasures in orchestral repertoire, works that are rarely performed by nature of their orchestration or brevity. In addition to inspirational and entertaining music, each hour-long episode features artfully packaged content – backstage, at-home, in rehearsal and in interview – featuring BSO musicians, conductors and composers.

BSO President & CEO Peter Kjome stated, “As we eagerly await the moment when we can welcome audience members back to our concert halls, we are thrilled to share great music from the stage of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall through BSO Sessions.” Kjome added, “We are grateful to close friends of the BSO and to our entire community of patrons who have provided vital support to enable this work. In extending our virtual platform and pivoting to a new concert format, the BSO is able to provide great music to our community in new and innovative ways.”

Premiering Wednesday, October 14 at 8 pm (weekly thereafter), Episode 1 of BSO Sessions covers the musicians’ return to the concert hall and the shared act of music making, including Puccini’s I Crisantemi, the composer’s melancholic, self-described “elegy to a friend” that the BSO is dedicating to all lives lost throughout 2020. Additional October episodes feature Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersh and introduce audiences to the BSO’s new Assistant Conductor Jonathan Rush; profile the works and self-described unexpected journey of composer Jessie Montgomery; and find inspiration in some of classical music’s greatest works that are rarely performed due to the constraints of the traditional concert format, including Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony for String Orchestra.

BSO Sessions will feature the return of orchestra musicians to the stage of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, where high definition cameras were installed over the summer. While initial episodes include string orchestra in socially distanced cohorts, plans are underway for other sections of the orchestra to return to the stage soon. Programming featuring Music Director Marin Alsop and Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly will premiere in November as part of BSO Sessions.

VP and Chief Operating Officer Tonya McBride Robles stated, “By embracing a new documentary-style format, BSO Sessions allows us to elevate new voices of the classical repertoire, shedding light on important works, and to continue to do what we and our superb musicians do best – sharing great music.” Robles added, “In creating this digital series, it was not only important to provide the highest quality musical content but also to share that content in the highest quality format. Our new and improved BSO OffStage experience will help us do just that and ensure we continue to expand our reach into the community – not only to lovers of the traditional classical works, but also to our pops, family and new audiences alike.”

Beginning October 14, BSO OffStage content, including BSO Sessions, will be accessible via BSOmusic.org/OffStage with all content also available to view online and on televisions (via Chromecast and Airplay). Native apps for BSO OffStage will soon be available across multiple streaming platforms including Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. BSO Sessions will be available to purchase for just $10 per episode (pay-per-view); or, viewers can purchase a monthly, all-access plan for just $20 a month, providing immediate access to all new episodes as they premiere. Individual and monthly access plans will be available for purchase on October 7.

Other content on BSO OffStage will continue to be available for free, including a new virtual line-up of educational concerts and interactive, curriculum-connected content for students, teachers and families navigating the challenges of virtual learning.

Coming to BSO Sessions this October:

Episode 1: The Return

Just as tenures in the orchestra range from 40 years to 3 weeks before COVID-19 changed the world, the return to the concert hall isn’t the same for everyone. Experience the excitement, perspectives and individual stories of BSO musicians, Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersch and Assistant Conductor Jonathan Rush as music returns to the BSO stage. Concertmaster Jonathan Carney features in Hindemith’s Five Pieces for String Orchestra and, in a departure from operatic traditions, Puccini’s moving I Crisantemi is dedicated to all lives lost in 2020.

Premiere: Wednesday, October 14 at 8 pm

LISZT (arr. Bache): Angelus, “Prayer to the Guardian Angels”
HINDEMITH: Five Pieces for String Orchestra
ELGAR: Serenade for String Orchestra
PUCCINI (arr. Talmi): I Crisantemi for String Orchestra

Episode 2: Unexpected Journeys

American violinist, composer and music educator Jessie Montgomery and Assistant Conductor Jonathan Rush describe their own unexpected journeys to the stage, score and podium, showcasing Montgomery’s works for string ensemble and orchestra. Associate Concertmaster Audrey Wright gives a unique view into her preparation of the composer’s Rhapsody No. 1 for Solo Violin.

Premiere: Wednesday, October 21 at 8 pm

JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Starburst for String Orchestra
JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Strum for String Orchestra
JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Source Code for String Orchestra
JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Rhapsody No. 1 for Solo Violin
Associate Concertmaster Audrey Wright, violin
JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Banner for String Quartet and String Orchestra
JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Voodoo Dolls for String Quartet

Episode 3: Hidden Treasures

A shared commitment to working with the next generation of young musicians is not the only thing that connects Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersh and Assistant Conductor Jonathan Rush. In expanding on their own shared musical approach, we are introduced to the inspirations behind hidden treasures of classical repertoire by nature of their orchestration or brevity, none of which have ever before been played by the BSO. This includes the origin story of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, op. 110, here arranged for string orchestra. Arguably the composer’s best-known contribution to the string quartet repertoire, this piece is often described as both a dedication to “the victims of fascism and war,” as well as Shostakovich’s requiem to himself.

Premiere: Wednesday, October 28 at 8 pm

FLORENCE PRICE: String Quartet No. 2, movements II & III
FINE: Serious Song, A Lament for String Orchestra
SHOSTAKOVICH (arr. BARSHAI): Chamber Symphony in C Minor for String Orchestra, op. 110a

November and beyond episodes to be announced separately. Additional works to be featured in forthcoming episodes include Caroline Shaw, Entr'acte; Bryce Dessner, Lachrimae; Michael Abels, Delights and Dances; Bartók, Romanian Folk Dances; Beethoven, String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor, op. 95, "Serioso;" and Vaughan Williams, Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.

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About the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

For over a century, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has been recognized as one of America’s leading orchestras and one of Maryland’s most significant cultural institutions. Under the direction of Music Director Marin Alsop, the orchestra is internationally renowned and locally admired for its innovation, performances, recordings and educational outreach initiatives including OrchKids.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs annually for more than 275,000 people throughout the State of Maryland. Since 1982, the BSO has performed at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, and since 2005, with the opening of The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD, the BSO became the nation’s first orchestra performing its full season of classical and pops concerts in two metropolitan areas. More information about the BSO can be found at BSOmusic.org.

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