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September 17, 2008

The curse of Sunday concerts

The music season has barely slipped into gear, and I'm starting to get cranky already. Not because I'm nSimone Dinnersteinot looking forward to all the music-making, but because I know that, like every other year, I'm going to miss an awful lot of stuff, especially on Sundays.

I understand that there are only so many days in the week, and I certainly wouldn't want to seem like I'm not appreciative of all the effort being made by so many people to provide musical attractions to the community. But do we really have to end up with two, three, four or more enticing performances on a single Sunday, most of them right around the 3 o'clock hour, week after week? Isn't there some way to spread everything out a little more?

 Of course, I'm speaking selfishly, since I'm a one-person operation here and I hate having to make tough choices on what to attend. But I can't be the only one who gets all conflicted when the music gets too plentiful. (I don't even want to think about, say, Oct. 19 or Nov. 2, when there will be at least six worthy concerts.)

The first Sunday pile-up of the new season is heading our way Sept. 21. One option is remarkable pianist Simone Dinnerstein, who will play Bach's Goldberg Variations at 3:30 p.m. for Community Concerts at Second Presbyterian Church.

 Her career-jolting recording of this great work was a major news-maker last year, revealing a combination of technical fluency and highly individualistic styling. Dinnerstein played the Goldbergs last September at An die Musik, reconfirming everything that was notable about her CD (including her unconventionally slow tempo for the quodlibet variation), and I'm sure Sunday's performance will prove just as satisfying.

Also of note on Sunday: Music in the Great Hall opens its season at 3 p.m. at Towson UnitarianVirginia Reinecke Universalist Church with pianist Virginia Reinecke, violinist Nicholas Currie and cellist Pei Lu performing works by Hummel (his music doesn't turn up in concert very often), Schubert and Stanley Marguerite LevinSilverman.

And clarinetist Marguerite Levin gives the world premiere of a work by Christopher Ariza for bass clarinet and real-time signal processing during a recital at 3 p.m. at Towson University. Levin's program also offers pieces by Charles-Marie Widor and David Baker.

Good luck deciding which performance to attend. As for me, I'm not even going to try: I'll be at the Kennedy Center Sunday afternoon to catch up with a Washington National Opera production I had to miss last weekend because of different schedule conflict entirely (it's always something).    

PHOTOS: Top left, Simone Dinnerstein (Lisa-Marie Mazzucco, Telarc,); left, Marguerite Levin (courtesy Towson University); above right, Virginia Reinecke (Elizabeth Malby, Baltimore Sun ) 

Posted by Tim Smith at 4:03 PM | | Comments (2)


I am sick after reading that I missed Ms. Dinnerstein playing the Goldberg Variations. I have the CD and greatly enjoy listening but would have loved to see her live. I did go to the BSO Concert on Sunday, 10/25 and heard her play the Mozart Piano Concert No. 23 in A
Major. What a waste of her talent. Yes it was beautiful but
would have liked to hear her play a more substantial work such as the Beethoven Sonata No 32 she plays on the Berlin Concert CD.
Would it be possible to list a schedule of pianists performing in the Baltimore area?

Just read about Ms. Dinnerstein playing for the female inmates.
This is more proof that classical music is not an irrelevant, archaic form of music but continues to relate to the human psyche on many levels. More people should give it a try. I'm so glad that Ms. Dinnerstein has decided to be "a missionary for classical music."

It's always great to see the missionary spirit in artists. Thanks for the comments. TIM

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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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