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October 22, 2008

One concert, three conductors at Peabody

Gustav Meier and Marin AlsopLast night's Peabody Symphony Orchestra concert provided a showcase for three conductors, one an eminent teacher in the profession, the others encouraging examples of the next podium generation.

Gustav Meier, whose former students include BSO music director Marin Alsop, doesn't make too many conducting appearances locally, so it was gratifying to experience this seasoned mentor and talent-tuner in action. He led the orchestra through a challenging war horse, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, with a masterful sense of momentum and phrase-sculpting. His mostly economical gestures communicated easily and effectively to the ensemble, which responded with a vitality that made up for some technical roughness. There were many passages when the conservatory students, particularly the string section, operated at a very impressive level. The crucial violin solos were played with admirable tonal solidity and lyrical intensity by Jessica Tong.

At the start of the program, Vladimir Kulenovic, a Peabody grad student who already has had a good deal of experience conducting around the country, offered an eventful account of another well-worn score, Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture. Kulenovic allowed for very spacious phrasing at the start, creating extra sonic poetry in the process, and he had the stormier portions of the work fired up nicely. I think the last measures could have been slower and quieter, but the overall performance was decidedly classy.

Joseph Young, the first BSO-Peabody Conducting Fellow, conducted two off-beat items. In Bartok's Portrait No. 1, which featured the elegant solo violin work of Netanel Draiblate and more or less confident playing by the orchestra, Young was sensitive to the music's dreamscape coloring. He then drew a taut performance of Noir by Chinese-born composer Fang Man. Her well-crafted score, receiving its U.S. premiere in this concert, is launched by deep rumblings in the orchestra, later punctuated by jazzy flashes of brass and percussion, and finally brought to a galloping, thunderous close. It all added up last night to a concise, involving little drama in a spicy harmonic language that seemed to keep the players thoroughly involved.

PHOTO FOR BALTIMORE SUN BY EUGENE H. LOUIE (Gustav Meier, Marin Alsop conferring during conductors workshop at 2007 Cabrillo Festival)

Posted by Tim Smith at 11:50 AM | | Comments (0)

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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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