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February 2, 2009

Pro Musica Rara scores touchdown

"SuperBach Sunday," the annual presentation by Pro Musica Rara, provided more than pre-Super Bowl distraction. The organization's artistic director, cellist Allen Whear, put together a dynamic assortment of baroque fare and a stylish assemblage of musicians to perform it at Towson University's Center for the Arts.

Ann MOnoyios sopranoBach was represented by the brief, colorful Sinfonia from Cantata BWV 75, leaving the rest of the concert divided between Handel and Purcell. A suite from the latter's The Fairy Queen was a high point, both for Purcell's subtle genius and the deft work of the ensemble and soprano Ann Monoyios. She shaped "O let me weep" with a pure tone and unforced expressiveness,  articulating the sighing phrases with particular beauty. The instrumentalists meshed admirably in the dance movements, handling such things as the decrescendo at the end of the Monkey's Dance with real charm. Sara Nichols produced gentle pastel tones on the transverse flute; John Thiessen negotiated the trumpet lines, always tricky on a period instrument, quite gracefully.

There was similarly fine music-making throughout the afternoon. Excerpts from Handel's Ode for St. Cecilia's Day, for example, were performed with a poetic touch, inspiring some eloquent phrasing by Monoyios, Nichols and Whear. The soprano's ornamentation of the same composer's "Let the bright Seraphim" from Samson was another plus; Thiessen had the trumpet part in that aria doing a kind of singing, too. Handel's Concerto Grosso, Op. 3, No. 3, received a vivid account; the fugal finale emerged with quite an effective bite.

For the record, the other performers on Sunday were violinists Cynthia Roberts, Greg Mulligan and Ivan Stefanovic; violist Sharon Pineo Myer; and harpsichordist Amy Rosser.

The concert provided yet another reminder of how nicely Pro Music Rara has developed in the past several years with Whear at the helm. But, as a fundraising plea at intermission drove home, the organization could use more support as it heads for its 35th anniversary next season.


Posted by Tim Smith at 5:00 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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