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February 2, 2009

Concert Artists of Baltimore in dancing mood

Thematic programs can get a little forced or cute (count on marketing departments to exploit the slightest cutesy angle), but they can also make good sense and lead in some interesting directions. Consider Saturday's night's offering by the Concert Artists of Baltimore at the Gordon Center in Owings Mills.

Edward Polochick conductorAlthough there must have been two or three million programs around the world given the hook "Invitation to the Dance" by now, this one managed to avoid the most obvious choices. Conductor Edward Polochick paired two orchestral items filled with infectious folk tunes and rhythms: Dvorak's Czech Suite and Kodaly's Dances of Galanta. A pair of piano/orchestra works also fulfilled the dance theme: Chopin's Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise and Liszt's Totentanz ("Dance of Death"). These choices, in turn, yielded a sub-theme -- Eastern European composers, with two Hungarians, a Czech and a Pole. It all added up to an entertaining concert that found the ensemble operating on all cylinders.

At chamber orchestra size, the group can't fill out all of the tonal colors in the Dvorak and Kodaly pieces, but the musicians nonetheless produced a great deal of warmth and nuance as Polochick molded both scores in characterful style. The woodwinds made an impressive showing; clarinetist David Drosinos, in particular, did shining work in the Dances of Galanta.

The Chopin and Liszt items featured pianist Mark Markham, a very successful alum and former faculty member of Peabody. He had the Andante spianato spinning beautifully and gave the Polonaise an effective drive, enhanced by a big, rich tone for the music's most energetic moments. Totentanz is a lot of sound and fury, signifying very little, but Markham knew how to get the most out of it, producing abundant power for Liszt's noisiest, flashiest variations on the ancient Dies Irae chant and sensitively using a wide palette of tone coloring whenever the bluster subsided. Polochick and his players partnered the pianist smoothly.


Posted by Tim Smith at 11:24 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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