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December 16, 2008

Musical America Awards reveal Baltimore connection

Marin Alsop Yo-Yo MaLast night's penthouse reception at Lincoln Center for the reicipients of the 2009 Musical America Awards was principally about talent. But I decided it was principally about Baltimore (hey, in this media market, you know it's gotta be local-local-local all the time).

Here goes: Musician of the Year is cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who has often performed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, including this seaosn's opening gala led by music director and now Conductor of the Year Marin Alsop, who has frequently championed the works of this year's Composer of the Year, Baltimore-born and -based Christopher Rouse, Christopher Rousewhose style represents quite an expresssive contrast to that of centenarian Elliott Carter, whose works are a specialty of this year's Ensemble of the Year, the Pacifica Quartet, which played Carter's Fifth String Quartet in a program presented last April by Candlelight Concerts in Columbia (close enough to Baltimore), an organization not unlike Baltimore's Shriver Hall Concert Series, which presented this year's Vocalist of the Year, mezzo-sropano Stephanie Blythe, a couple seasons ago.

Call it Six Degrees of Baltimore.

Stephanie BlytheAnyway, about 200 people in the classical music biz hobbed with every nob worth hobbing with at the reception for a while.

Then Sedgwick Clark, who edits the annual Musical America Directory (a resource bible in the industry), introduced each honoree in jovial, affectionate fashion. The winners responded in kind.

Yo-Yo Ma, who jokingly wondered how Baltimore managed to get two awards this year, referrred in his remarks to the "village" that makes up the music world, the way musicians (and publicists, who were well represented at the event) support each other. Pacifica Quartet

Alsop, who had very hearty hugs for the cellist and Rouse earlier in the evening, mentioned one of her major themes, taking chances, and making music count more than ever as the world gets less certain. Her parents were there to see her latest honor. (BSO president/CEO Paul Meecham and board chairman Michael Bronfein also attended.)

Although Alsop is famed for great one-liners, she didn't deliver one last night. That came instead from Simin Ganatra, first violinist in the Pacifica Quartet, which is in residence at the University of Illinois.

“Being from Illinois," Ganatra said, "our first instinct was to sell this award to the highest bidder.”

BALTIMORE SUN STAFF AND FILE PHOTOS (from top: Marin Alsop and Yo-Yo Ma at BSO's 2008 gala; Christoper Rouse; Stepahnie Blythe; Pacifica Quartet)

Posted by Tim Smith at 12:27 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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