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Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Presents Ten Centennial Celebration Commissions

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and ten American composers collaborate to celebrate a rich history and a vibrant future of music-making

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Interview with Kristin Kuster

Posted on February 22, 2016 by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
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Kristin Kuster wanted her piece, MOXIE, to have an immediate festive atmosphere that grabs an audience, but inside the piece she also built a musical cipher tribute to Maestra Marin Alsop that audiences might not catch at first listen. Hear Kuster talk about the piece!

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Happy Birthday, BSO!!!

Posted on February 11, 2016 by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

It’s here! 100 years ago on February 11, 1916, the BSO gave its debut performance. Tonight, exactly 100 years later, we celebrate a century of music-making and service to the community with a special anniversary concert at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore. The program features one of the most celebrated violinists of the modern era, Joshua Bell, who brings his unique blend of passion and virtuosity to a suite from Bernstein’s West Side Story. The concert also features the timeless music of Gershwin, and a nod to the future with Mothership, with composer Mason Bates joining in the performance.

 We are especially excited to present the first of our ten Centennial Celebration Commissions: the premiere of MOXIE by Kristin Kuster. 

 When Kristin was asked to write a themed piece of music for this project, she chose the theme of Marin Alsop. The composer praised our Maestra as “an important figure for female musicians, not only in orchestral music but in art music.” She describes MOXIE as a “fun, five-minute party in honor of Marin.” We can’t wait to hear it! 


Since the 2007 arrival of Music Director Marin Alsop, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has embraced a broad vision of access and inclusion and created new, more participatory musical experiences to both strengthen the relevance of symphonic music in the 21st century and attract new audiences to the classical artform. Integral to the BSO under Alsop’s creative approach has been the performance of a wide range of contemporary works and the championing of the composers of our time — perpetuating the living, evolving tradition of symphonic music.

The BSO will reach its Centennial in 2016. This anniversary provides a unique opportunity for the Orchestra to showcase its rich and storied past, champion the innovations of recent years under Music Director Marin Alsop, and set the course for the next 100 years. In recognition of this milestone, the BSO is planning a region‐wide celebration spanning its 2015‐2016 and 2016‐2017 seasons.

At the center of this celebration is a reaffirmation of the Symphony’s commitment to living music. In 2015-2016, the BSO will perform a total of 43 classical works by composers who lived during the last 100 years, including 22 works by living composers and featuring 12 commissions — ten of which make up the BSO’s Centennial Celebration Commissions. This commissioning project features celebratory new works by ten American composers (five female and five male) including : TJ ColeKristen Kuster, Lori Laitman, Libby LarsenJames Lee IIIJonathan Leshnoff, Christopher RouseCaroline ShawChristopher Theofanidis, and Joan Tower. These talented individuals represent a wide range of musical styles and perspectives reflective of our diverse community.

The creative framework for each composer began with a crowdsourcing exercise. The BSO invited members of the public to submit ideas as inspiration for a set of new commissions. Then, the composers selected for the project had the opportunity to choose one of these themes to inspire their new composition. Chosen themes for the commissions include death of Poe, M.A.R.I.N. (Clara Schumann-cyphers), and Thurgood Marshall, just to name a few.

The first of these Centennial Celebration Commissions will be premiered at the BSO’s official 100th Anniversary Concert on February 11, 2016. The remaining premieres will be surprise offerings throughout the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons.

Project Media

Chuphshah! Harriet’s Drive to Canaan (excerpt)
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BSO Commission, premiered Sept. 23-25, 2011 by the BSO under Music Director Marin Alsop. “Chuphshah” (Hebrew for “freedom”) provides a portrait of the life and struggles of Harriet Tubman (1822-1913), the African-American abolitionist and humanitarian best known for her role in establishing the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. The orchestration is full of color and movement, referencing spirituals including “Go Down Moses”and conjuring images of the war with quotations from tunes like “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Dixie.”

Guitar Concerto – Finale, lively
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BSO Co-commission, premiered Jan. 9-12, 2014 by the BSO under Music Director Marin Alsop, featuring Manuel Barrueco, guitar. To balance the subtle sound of a guitar with a full symphony orchestra, Leshnoff has taken extreme care with the orchestration and slightly amplified the guitar. The first movement, “Maestoso, Allegro” features irregular rhythms and rapid pace. The second movement, “Hod, Adagio” is inspired by the tenants of the Jewish mystical tradition. The third movement, “Finale, lively” (offered here) evokes a Latin dance.

Rapture (excerpt)
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Performed Oct. 23, 2014 by the BSO under Music Director Marin Alsop. In Rouse’s own words, “Rapture” is “not connected to any religious source but rather, conveys a sense of spiritual bliss, religious or otherwise.” The work is an exercise in gradually increasing tempi and dynamics, beginning quite slowly and quietly, gradually speeding up to the breakneck tempo of the final moments and ending in an exultant ffff conclusion. “Rapture” also celebrates the 21st-century orchestra, utilizing every instrument and family with dramatic impact.

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Baltimore, Maryland

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Last update on February 22, 2016

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Baltimore, Maryland
The BSO was founded in 1916 as a branch of the municipal government and incorporated as a private institution in 1942. Its mission is to perform the highest quality symphonic music of all eras that nurtures the human spirit. The BSO is committed to engaging, inspiring, educating, and serving its audiences in a fiscally responsible manner…

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