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October 6, 2008

Pro Musica Rara opens season in style

Allen WhearI've only sampled the last eight of Pro Musica Rara's three decades, so I don't know what things were like in the early days. What I can say is that the ensemble, devoted to early music played on period instruments, has gotten steadily better in the past few years since cellist Allen Whear became artistic director. Yesterday afternoon's 34th season-opener was a case in point -- interesting repertoire given classy performances by accomplished musicians. (I ducked out a little early to get to the Leon Fleisher concert at Shriver Hall.)

The presentation at Towson University's Center for the Arts, an ideal space in acoustics and atmosphere for Pro Musica, focused on German baroque composers and had the considerable advantage of Nina Stern's virtuosity on the recorder. She coaxed myriad shadings from the instrument in a solo Fantasia by Telemann and blended beautifully with Whear, violinist Cynthia Roberts and harpsichordist Avi Stein in trio sonatas by Telemann and Handel. Roberts had the spotlight in one of Biber's Mystery Sonatas and made the most of it with nimble, stylish playing, with vivid support from Whear and Stein. The harpsichordist got a solo moment, too, turning in a bravura, colorful account of a Toccata by Froberger. Some solo cello music of Bach, eloquently phrased by Whear, was added to the program as a memorial to longtime patron and board member of Pro Musica, Charlotte Truesdell, who died over the summer.

Pro Musica Rara's season continues Nov. 2 with a concert featuring members of the New York Baroque Dance Company.


Posted by Tim Smith at 1:04 PM | | 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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