Liszt, Berlioz, Ravel – three exceptional composers in one brilliant concert. On February 16th and 17th, guest conductor Mario Venzago, principal conductor and artistic director of the Bern Symphony Orchestra and artist in association at Finland’s Tapiola Sinfonietta, and pianist Conrad Tao will join the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) for one night only at both the Music Center at Strathmore and the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Each composer is different and innovative, but their compositions work well together. “All three composers of our unique program were great inventors. Liszt, as the figurehead of the new German composers’ party, prepared the field for Bruckner, Wagner, Schönberg, etc., while Berlioz extended the size of the classical orchestra and was the greatest orchestrator of his time. Without both of them, Ravel would never have had at his disposition all the unbelievable possibilities of richness and colors of his scores in order to express himself and his ideas,” says Venzago. “These three creators definitively belong together. All three of them wrote for a new, much more virtuosic orchestral conception in which the orchestra musicians also act as soloists. The best example of this is the world-renowned ‘Bolero.’”

In addition to Ravel’s “Bolero,” the concert will feature Tao in Liszt’s First Piano Concerto, a beautiful composition that debuted in February 1855 with Liszt at the piano and Berlioz as conductor. “The piece’s form is curious, the music reaching out and exploring new possibilities,” says Tao. “Said possibilities often build to a frenzied state before the whole piece readjusts or resets, and we then explore a different path, hopefully learning from our previous choices and their implications and consequences. Which is a lot like being a person!”

Both Venzago and Tao are looking forward to joining the BSO for this performance. “The BSO is one of the world’s leading orchestras, at a high standard technically and with a warm sound and deep soul musically – very special indeed. I have a long relationship with this fantastic ensemble, and I’m very much looking forward to meeting my beloved musical friends again and flying with them into this special world. It will be a thrill,” says Venzago.

“I’m looking forward to working with Mario Venzago again. We’ve known each other for nearly ten years now and have played together several times. It’s always a good time. Mario is a super imaginative musician, and I think he’s well suited to the fantasy tableaux of Liszt,” says Tao. “[It’s] always a pleasure to be back with the BSO and in Baltimore – I’m hoping this go-around to visit the Baltimore Museum of Art and see the ongoing exhibit featuring works by Get Your Life, a video production company comprising middle school students and artists that my friend (and MICA alum) Lee Heinemann founded.”

The BSO will perform Ravel’s “Bolero” on Saturday, February 16th at 8 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore and on Sunday, February 17th at 3 pm at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. For ticket information, visit BSOmusic.org.

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Brynn Devereaux
Brynn Devereaux
"Brynn Devereaux is a freelance writer for Baltimore OUTloud. As an arts writer, she enjoys exploring the local arts scene and bringing attention to new books and authors. Brynn is a Scranton expat and a Towson University graduate."