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September 19, 2008

More thoughts on BSO's season-opener

Last night's season-opening concert by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (reviewed in today's paper) is still resonating with me this morning -- above all, the sound of the ensemble. Something in the consistent richness really caught my ear, and brought back memories of the Temirkanov years. I didn't spot any numbers of extra players; this seemed to be just the good old BSO, operating at its best, producing an admirable depth and solidity of tone. Maybe it was an aural sign of how comfortable the musicians are these days, what with a recently negotiated, and favorable, three-year contract; more recording projects; the prospect of a high-profile return to Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center next month. And there certainly was every indication last night at the Meyerhoff that the players are clicking more tightly than ever with music director Marin Alsop, who also was in terrific form in this performance, adding layers of nuance and sensitivity to the momentum and structural clarity that are her trademarks. I was, frankly, amazed how much I enjoyed hearing Holst's The Planets again, and I realized that it was because Alsop managed to make it all sound so fresh and alive, as well as substantive. This was classy, involving, arresting music-making, and it bodes well for her work with the orchestra during the rest of the season.

One thing I missed, though -- some lighting effects to match the other-worldly, fade-out ending of The Planets. Earlier, for Michael Daugherty's UFO, theatrical lighting was effectively employed throughout (helping distract the eye from the work's less interesting musical bits), so it would, I assume, be easy to do something for the Holst piece, too. Not during each movement, mind you, just a slow dimming of all the lights as the women's' voices gradually evaporate into the distance. Like the Maria Callas line in Master Class has it, "Never miss an opportunity to theatricalize."

Posted by Tim Smith at 11:12 AM | | Comments (1)


It is so refreshing to read Tim Smith's accounts of the "Extraterrestrial" concert of the BSO. My first reading was of the Washington Post review, which was rather negative. I remember that it was also quite negative about last season's Beethoven's 5th. Tim's sense of things seems much more accurate, although I don't always agree with him. He's making Euorpen mouths water for an eventual XM Radio broadcast of the concert. Bravo, BSO, Marin Alosp, Tim Smith.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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