On Friday night, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) held a special college night event following their regular weekly concert, offering Baltimore students free food, giveaways and the chance to mingle with members of the orchestra.
Following the concert program featuring Mendelssohn, Debussy and Tchaikovsky, several dozen students gathered in the lobby for an after-party which included free pizza and $2 beer specials in the Meyerhoff Lounge.
Another feature of the college night was the special price, only $10 for an evening of classical music and this exclusive, students-only gathering.
The evening’s program was entitled “Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn” under the direction of Musical Director Marin Alsop. The first half of the evening’s program included Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky, with Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture” being a light and airy opening for the evening’s program.
Next was a performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme,” which featured cello soloist and 2011 Tchaikovsky competition winner Narek Hakhnazaryan. This was a change from the concert plan, as cellist Sol Gabetta had been scheduled to perform as soloist but was unexpectedly replaced.
Narek Hakhnazaryan is a cellist originally from Yerevan, Armenia who is currently touring North America with over a dozen orchestral and recital works. He has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City as well as in a recital locally at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Hakhnazaryan is artist-in-residence with the Malta Philharmonic and has toured the United Kingdom, China and Hong Kong with colleagues Zhang Zhou and Esther Yoo as part of the Z.E.N. Trio.
This was his debut performance with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Following this performance, The Baltimore Sun labeled Hakhnazaryan as “the real deal” for his precise articulation as well as his deeply poetic interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s lyrical work.
Besides receiving critical praise, Hakhnazaryan received a standing ovation from the audience at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and was elected to perform an encore. He played a work entitled “Lamentatio,” by Italian composer and cellist Giovanni Sollima.
This piece included repeated vocalizations and highlighted the masterful command which Hakhnazaryan possesses over both his instrument and his voice.
Following the intermission, the Orchestra played “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” by Claude Debussy, and “Der Rosenkavalier Suite” by Richard Strauss. The “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” is a symphonic poem for orchestra first performed in Paris in December 1894.
The prelude features a lyrical flute solo that was performed by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musician Emily Skala.
“Der Rosenkavalier,” or “The Knight of the Rose” or “The Rose-Bearer,” features themes from a comic opera in three acts by Strauss and German librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
The usual audience was slightly smaller than is normal due to the Halloween weekend. However students were in robust attendance, and many joined the after-party in the Meyerhoff Lounge following the performance.
Several dozen students gathered in the lobby to socialize and have the chance to meet Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians. On the bar tables were giveaway items offered by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, including drink cozies and promotional materials for upcoming college nights and the BSO Pulse series.
Hopkins junior Thaara Shankar attended the event with friends and enjoyed the concert as well as the post-performance party. As a Student Select member, she appreciates the Orchestra’s efforts to make classical music and the arts accessible to more young people, including her fellow students.
“It’s nice to see the BSO reaching out to college students, especially as many arts organizations often neglect our age group,” said Shankar. “It’s great to see this accessibility, because many arts experiences have traditionally been framed or perceived to be framed for an incredibly small percentage of population.”
College nights at the BSO are part of a larger desire to attract a younger and more diverse audience to the symphony through event nights and discounted student tickets.
The Orchestra offers a Student Select Passport, which allows students to obtain tickets for all of the Orchestra’s regular season concerts for an annual fee of $35. Printed cards were placed on the seats reserved by BSO Student Select members to remind them of the after-party taking place following the concert.
The BSO Pulse series, which features performances by independent artists accompanied by members of the Orchestra, has also worked to attract new audiences to Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Upcoming performances in the BSO Pulse series include a show on Jan. 4 with Tank and the Bangas and a performance on March 22 with Valerie June. Tickets to both performances are available starting at $25.