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Cracking Gender Inequality with a BSO Premiere

3 min read

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for a long time has been tackling the stigma of gender inequality in the orchestral world. The first women to join the BSO was in 1937; Sarah Feldman and Vivienne Cohn. In 2005, Music Director Marin Alsop became the first woman ever to lead a major American orchestra. Tonight the BSO premiered the works of the female composer, Victoria Borisova-Ollas and The Kingdom of Silence. Also featured tonight was Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme lead by cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski.

Tonight the BSO was lead by conductor Andrey Boreyko. He has conducted America’s top orchestras to considerable acclaim including the Los Angeles, and New York philharmonics. He is a Russian conductor who studied at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. He is making his BSO debut. The BSO played well under his guidance. Andrey Boreyko would be conducting the BSO premiere of fellow Russian Victoria Borisova-Ollas and The Kingdom of Silence written in 2003.

Victoria Borisova-Ollas and The Kingdom of Silence isn’t one of the BSO’s Centennial Celebration Commissions. It is, however, a BSO premiere of a female composer. It’s a part of Marin Alsop’s continuing effort to equal the playing field for women. Not that there isn’t parity in the orchestral world. There are as many female musicians as there are male. It’s the elevated roles of concertmaster, composer, and music director where you see a steep decline of female performers. Women only made up of 2% of the composers on orchestral programs across the country last season. Those numbers are skewed by the fact that repertoires largely consist of classical composers. In this day and age, I can definitely see an increased role for female composers. The more compositions that are revealed, the more we can hear this impact. Music is blind, it should be an afterthought.

The Kingdom of Silence is a tone poem based on the Book of Psalms. It had an enigmatic feel. The introductory glockenspiel and celesta made for a lucid atmosphere. The celesta is an idiophone reminiscent of an upright piano. I really enjoyed the inclusion of this instrument. The sound of the glockenspiel chiming complimented the celesta’s steel strings. Paired with the echo of the stringed instruments it created an aurora of sound. It was very relaxing and wondrous. It sounded fantastic!

Also featured on tonight’s program was Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello and orchestra. It was lead by BSO principal cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski. The baroque style of ornamentation leads to some exquisite solo works. The fifth variation showed off Dariusz’s virtuosity. It contains swift configurations of the cello’s highest notes. It was a thrilling presentation and Dariusz played it masterfully. Maybe next he can perform Arcade Fire’s Rococo Theme.

The program ended with Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat MajorThis sonata has a wartime mood being written in 1944. Booming drums and ominous brass added to the war-like aesthetic. The Allegro Marcato features some really nifty woodwinds. The quick change in tempo added some suspense. The allegro giocoso finale was especially entertaining. It was exuberant and blazing with brass like orchestral fireworks! War sonatas are some of my favorite compositions ever written. Valiant war themes are often exemplified by triumph and heroism. It’s an expression of pride and confidence. It’s really fun to listen too. The BSO performed it magnificently!

This was an incredible presentation and is a good example of what the BSO is capable of.