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November 19, 2008

Close encounter with the Poulenc Trio

Poulenc TrioHard as I try, I still can't take in all of the musical activity in the region. One ensemble, in particular, has eluded me for a few years now. Seems like every time the Poulenc Trio scheduled a concert, it was up against something else that, for one reason or another, took precedence.

I finally caught up with this oboe/bassoon/piano ensemble Sunday night in the intimate upstairs salon at An die Musik, arriving a wee bit late, when they were about a dozen measures into a work by the ensemble's namesake, Francis Poulenc. His writing for these three instruments is as brilliant as it gets; heck, everything by Poulenc is brilliant, in my book.

The players -- oboist Vladimir Lande, bassoonist Bryan Young, pianist Irina Kaplan Lande -- were particularly impressive in the bittersweet Andante movement. Some portions of the boisterous outer movements did not sound tightly meshed, but things were clicking together smoothly in the Trio by Jean Francaix, a score that shares the energy and wry wit of the Poulenc piece, if not the distinctive streak of dark lyricism. There were warmly molded phrases from Young and Vladimir Lande in the second movement (harder to achieve, given how cold the temperature in the concert room) and lots of panache from all three musicians in the finale. Here and there, I wished the pianist could have produced greater dynamic nuance, but she was always on the same basic wavelength as her colleagues.

The program also offered a charming, lightweight work by early 19th century oboist and composer Henri Brod and some fun, tango-flavored items by Astor Piazzolla (in one of them, ably joined by violinist Anton Lande).

All in all, an entertaining evening with an ensemble that offers equal doses of polish and personality.

Photo courtesy of Poulenc Trio

Posted by Tim Smith at 12:59 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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