David Sheets, Associate Principal Bass. Photo credit: The BSO.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) today announced “BSO Sessions,” a new digital concert series that follows the orchestra and its return to the stage. BSO Sessions will be exclusively available on BSO OffStage, a virtual platform for sharing orchestral performances and content.

The weekly “BSO Sessions” concerts will be curated, and programs will include classic masterpieces; music by living composers and composers of color; and hidden treasures in the orchestral repertoire and more. Each hour-long episode also includes fresh content – backstage, at-home, in rehearsal and in interview – featuring BSO musicians, conductors and composers.

“As we eagerly await the moment when we can welcome audience members back to our concert halls, we are thrilled to share great music from the stage of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall through BSO Sessions,” said BSO President & CEO Peter Kjome. “We are grateful to close friends of the BSO and to our entire community of patrons who have provided vital support to enable this work. In extending our virtual platform and pivoting to a new concert format, the BSO is able to provide great music to our community in new and innovative ways.”

Premiering Wednesday, October 14 at 8 p.m., the first episode of the weekly series covers the musicians’ return to the concert hall and the shared act of music-making. Additional October episodes feature Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersh and introduce audiences to the BSO’s new Assistant Conductor Jonathan Rush; profile the works and self-described “unexpected journey” of composer Jessie Montgomery; and find inspiration in some of classical music’s greatest works.

Orchestra musicians will return to the stage of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall for BSO Sessions, where high definition cameras were installed over the summer. Initial episodes include a socially distant string orchestra and plans are underway for other sections of the orchestra to return to the stage soon. Programs with Music Director Marin Alsop and Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly will premiere in November as part of BSO Sessions.

Beginning October 14, BSO OffStage content, including “BSO Sessions,” will be accessible via BSOmusic.org/OffStage with all content also available to view online and on televisions (via Chromecast and Airplay). Native apps for BSO OffStage will soon be available across multiple streaming platforms including Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. BSO Sessions will be available to purchase for $10 per episode (pay-per-view); or, viewers can purchase a monthly, all-access plan for $20 a month. Individual and monthly access plans will be available for purchase on October 7.

Other content on BSO OffStage will continue to be available for free, including a new virtual line-up of educational concerts and interactive, curriculum-connected content for students, teachers and families navigating the challenges of virtual learning.

The first three episodes of “BSO Sessions” this October will include the following:

Episode 1: The Return

Just as tenures in the orchestra range from 40 years to 3 weeks before COVID-19 changed the world, the return to the concert hall isn’t the same for everyone. Experience the excitement, perspectives and individual stories of BSO musicians, Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersch and Assistant Conductor Jonathan Rush as music returns to the BSO stage. Concertmaster Jonathan Carney features in Hindemith’s Five Pieces for String Orchestra and, in a departure from operatic traditions, Puccini’s moving I Crisantemi is dedicated to all lives lost in 2020.

Premiere: Wednesday, October 14 at 8 pm

LISZT (arr. Bache): Angelus, “Prayer to the Guardian Angels”

HINDEMITH: Five Pieces for String Orchestra

ELGAR: Serenade for String Orchestra

PUCCINI (arr. Talmi): I Crisantemi for String Orchestra

Episode 2: Unexpected Journeys

American violinist, composer and music educator Jessie Montgomery and Assistant Conductor Jonathan Rush describe their own unexpected journeys to the stage, score and podium, showcasing Montgomery’s works for string ensemble and orchestra. Associate Concertmaster Audrey Wright gives a unique view into her preparation of the composer’s Rhapsody No. 1 for Solo Violin.

Premiere: Wednesday, October 21 at 8 pm

JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Starburst for String Orchestra

JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Strum for String Orchestra

JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Source Code for String Orchestra

JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Rhapsody No. 1 for Solo Violin

Associate Concertmaster Audrey Wright, violin

JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Banner for String Quartet and String Orchestra

JESSIE MONTGOMERY: Voodoo Dolls for String Quartet

Episode 3: Hidden Treasures

A shared commitment to working with the next generation of young musicians is not the only thing that connects Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersh and Assistant Conductor Jonathan Rush. In expanding on their own shared musical approach, we are introduced to the inspirations behind hidden treasures of classical repertoire by nature of their orchestration or brevity, none of which have ever before been played by the BSO. This includes the origin story of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, op. 110, here arranged for string orchestra. Arguably the composer’s best-known contribution to the string quartet repertoire, this piece is often described as both a dedication to “the victims of fascism and war,” as well as Shostakovich’s requiem to himself.

Premiere: Wednesday, October 28 at 8 pm

FLORENCE PRICE: String Quartet No. 2, movements II & III

FINE: Serious Song, A Lament for String Orchestra

SHOSTAKOVICH (arr. BARSHAI): Chamber Symphony in C Minor for String Orchestra, op. 110a

November and beyond episodes to be announced separately. Additional works to be featured in forthcoming episodes include Caroline Shaw, Entr’acte; Bryce Dessner, Lachrimae; Michael Abels, Delights and Dances; Bartók, Romanian Folk Dances; Beethoven, String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor, op. 95, “Serioso;” and Vaughan Williams, Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.