Yan Pascal Tortelier Leads BSO in Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Now thru 2/2

One of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's (BSO) most popular guest conductors, Yan Pascal Tortelier, returns to lead the BSO in Ravel's arrangement of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition tonight, January 31, 2013 and Friday, February 1, 2013 at 8 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore. The program also features returning pianist Orion Weiss, who will perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27. Also on the program is Hindemith's Concert Music for Strings and Brass. Please see below for complete event details.

It was the passing of Modest Mussorgky's friend, the artist and architect Victor Hartman, that prompted the composer to arrange an exhibition of his late friend's artwork. Inspired by these paintings, Mussorgsky composed ten works for solo piano, which programmatically depicted the scenes shown in these works. For example, the low strings and bassoon depict the groaning wheels of an ox-drawn cart in "Bydlo" ("Polish Cart"), or a stately melody of a Russian orthodox hymn indicates a grand processional passing through "The Great Gate of Kiev." This rich music went largely unheralded until the great Russian conductor Serge Koussevitsky commissioned Maurice Ravel to arrange it for orchestra.

Orion Weiss' BSO debut in 2011, which was also under Tortelier's baton, earned praise from The Baltimore Sun: "There's something quite distinctively poetic in his tone and his phrasing; the evergreen music seemed to reveal lots of fresh growth as he played. The pianist enjoyed smooth rapport with conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier, who drew warm, dynamic playing from the BSO. Cello, flute and horn solos purred beautifully."

Weiss will perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27. Written during a time in the composer's life when he was besieged by debt collectors and his wife was ill, Mozart's melancholy is felt in this work. Less showy than his other piano concerti, the downward sloping melodies and use of minor keys throughout add to the work's introspective quality.

As in the case of Pictures at an Exhibition, Serge Koussevitzky is the reason that audiences today can enjoy Hindemith's bold Concert Music for Strings and Brass. The Russian-born conductor commissioned this work to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony in 1930. Composed for the brass and string sections exclusively, the piece's upbeat conclusion even has a hint of the blues, a gesture in recognition of the composer's American commissioning orchestra.

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