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February 9, 2009

David Hardy, Lambert Orkis and dual-angle Beethoven

David Hardy and Lambert OrkisThe Baltimore area is fortunate in having any number of worthy musical events that are recession-proof, by virtue of bearing no admission charge. Sunday afternoon's free presentation by the Catonsville Presbyterian Concert Series would certainly have been worth paying a good sum for, given the caliber of the players and the way they turned an all-Beethoven program into something as instructive as it was compelling.

David Hardy, who happens to have been born in Catonsville, has been principal cellist of the National Symphony Orchestra for about 15 years. He has collaborated in chamber music with the NSO's principal keyboardist, Lambert Orkis, for about 25 years. All of that familiarity gives their music-making a breathing-as-one synergy.

The two men are in the midst of recording all the Beethoven cello/piano literature in dual fashion -- on period instruments and modern instruments -- and they provided a sample of both on Sunday. On the first half of the concert, with a gut-string cello and replica of a 1788 fortepiano, the duo offered an eventful account of the Variations on a Theme from Judas Maccabeus and the F major Sonata (Op. 5, No. 1). The instrumental coloring from both instruments -- a subtler palette than today's versions -- brought out fresh details in both scores. The lively finale of the sonata found both players digging into the notes to particularly sparkling effect.

For the second half's modern-sound performance, Hardy and Orkis maintained their expressive power and, as in the earlier portion, ensured that all of Beethoven's little dynamic surprises emerged with an extra kick (the resonant acoustics of Catonsville Presbyterian Church helped, too). The players hardly stinted on lyricism, providing some lovely dialogues in the Variations on a Theme from The Magic Flute and a great deal of poetic richness in the Adagio portion of the C major Sonata (Op. 102, No. 1).

I had to head for Shriver Hall for Radu Lupu's amazing recital before the duo played the last item on the program, but I didn't feel at all short-changed. Hardy's burnished tone and finely detailed phrasing left quite an impression (as it does whenever he has solo moments in NSO performances). And Orkis reaffirmed what has long been known -- he's one of the most solid, elegant players in the business.


Posted by Tim Smith at 3:24 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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