BSO features sultry works of Berlioz, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky for Valentine’s Day

Carnival in Rome  ~ Josep Benlliure  (Wikimedia)

By the time the latest blast of winter weather has (hopefully) passed the Maryland area, it will be a somewhat snow-covered Valentine’s Day.  Roses and candy are always nice, but nothing warms the room for romance like an evening of beautiful music.  The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is offering three such evenings this weekend with a trio of soul-stirring pieces composed by Hector Berlioz, Camille Saint-Saëns and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  This gala concert may be experienced in Baltimore on Friday and Sunday at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and on Saturday in Bethesda at the Music Center at Strathmore.

BSO Concertmaster Jonathan Carney
BSO Concertmaster Jonathan Carney

Conductor Gilbert Varga will lead the BSO in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique”, Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture and  Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3.  The Saint-Saëns piece will feature the prowess of BSO Concertmaster Jonathan Carney on the violin.

Hector Berlioz borrowed from his opera Benvenuto Cellini in creating his Roman Carnival.  This lush and lively overture was written specifically by Berlioz for concert performances and features a melodious (and famous) opening solo for the cor anglais or English horn.

Musicologists have noted a recent upsurge in interest in the works of Camille Saint-Saëns.  His Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61 is particularly popular.  The work, while hauntingly melodic, presents a soloist with a variety of interpretive turns and as such continues to be one of Saint-Saëns’ most celebrated compositions.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Wikimedia)
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Wikimedia)

Owing much to the shadowy aspects of his life and the mystery surrounding his sudden death, “Pathétique” remains one of Tchaikovsky’s most scintillating compositions.  Coming as it does just ahead of an appearance by Gay Rights activist George Takei with the BSO next week, Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique” may be the most intriguing selection in this weekend’s program.

The name “Pathétique” for example – which in Russian conveys a panoply of distraught emotions – may hint at the burden Tchaikovsky carried in concealing his homosexual love affairs.  The score is intense, provocative and somewhat deceptive.  Just when you think the drama has reached its peak, “Pathétique” continues on – revealing one more hidden layer.

This exhilarating program will stir the senses, and both the Meyerhoff and the Strathmore offer perfect settings for these thrilling pieces, making culture and candy a winning combination for Valentine’s Day.

The BSO performs works by Berlioz, Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky this weekend at The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, and at The Music Center at Strathmore. Performances are scheduled for Friday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. at The Meyerhoff; Saturday, Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. at Strathmore and Sunday, Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. at The Meyerhoff.  Tickets and other information may found by visiting the BSO online.