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April 30, 2009

Major pileup of worthy musical events through Sunday

Every time the Baltimore concert schedule gets over-crowded I become more convinced than ever that we need a master planning device to help organizations avoid the kind of pileup of events we're going to get Thursday through Sunday. Here are just a few of the things that ought to be worth a listen:

The BSO welcomes the ever-engaging Mario Venzago back to the podium for a program of Bruckner's Third and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 (with sublime pianist Nelson Friere). Two gifted BSO musicians, violinist Madeline Adkins and violist Karin Brown, perform works by Bach, Mozart, Hindemith, Martinu, and Handel-Halvorsen at An die Musik. Opera Vivente opens its production of Britten's comic gem Albert Herring, which director John Bowen describes neatly as a cross between The Vicar or Dibley and Keeping Up Appearances (we Brit com fans get a perfect image from that).

Speaking of Britten, his Missa Brevis will be featured in a program by the Concert Choir of the College of Notre Dame. Shriver Hall wraps up its season with a recital by two eminent musicians, flutist Emmanuel Pahud and harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock. The 200th anniversary of Haydn's death will be marked by two fine Baltimore ensembles, Pro Musica Rara and the Handel Choir, the latter performing the stirring Mass in Time of War. The Baltimore Classical Guitar Society presents the dynamic Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. The Bach Concert Series offers a performance of the profound B minor Mass. UMBC presents an updated staging of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. The Canticle Singers will perform music of Poulenc, Fauré, Duruflé and Chen Yi.

And that's just some of what's out there in the next few days. I may resort to a throw of the dice to figure out where I'm going.

Posted by Tim Smith at 3:21 PM | | Comments (3)


Obviously, the BSO concert is the cream of the crop. I made a point of travelling to Indianapolis last year to hear Venzago lead the Bruckner 8th and was mightily impressed, even if it was the orchestra's first Bruckner endeavour and they weren't exactly perfect. He managed to get some surprisingly good playing from the strings (their biggest goof was pretty big, though: rushing the opening of the adagio, _both_ nights!), and the brass were astounding: powerful, but neither blatty nor brutal. Top honours went to the flutes and the prinicipal oboist; Indy's orchestra is _very_ lucky to have them!

Therefore, I'm dying to know how the BSO shapes up with this particular symphony. The 1889 is my least favourite version, being just a tad too polished and, er, "mutilated" when compared to the 1877 and (sprawling) 1873 versions. I will also miss the extended adagio and its quotations (the 1876 is my preferred version). I saw Herbert Blomstedt lead the 1873 in Philly, 2006, to a fantastic performance. Mario's enthusiasm, as well as a sure hand in Bruckner, should promise an engaging experience!

The Beethoven 4th is a major bonus, especially with Freire, whose recent Brahms piano-concerto recordings I enjoy very much. In fact, I probably would have enjoyed seeing him play the Brahms' 1st in this concert even more: the piece was not readily embraced by musicians or the public in Brahms' day, so it ranks as Brahms' "Bruckner 3rd" in a way. However, it's my personal favourite orchestral work by him. (I nicknamed the first movement "the Biblical epic," as it reminds me of Rózsa. ;^)

Thanks for the interesting report for the Midwest and your views on Bruckner, Brahms, at al.TIM

Another event worth attending is Columbia Pro Cantare's "Tribute to Paul Robeson" featuring acclaimed baritone Lester Lynch. Robert H. Cataliotti, professor in the Department of Humanities at Coppin State University in Baltimore, will give a free pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. on Paul Robeson's life and accomplishments, and there is a reception after the concert. The concert is in Columbia's Jim Rouse Theater.

Thanks for the reminder. This worthy event is tonight.

Bach's greatest contribution to music is the is B Minor Mass. My recommendation for Sunday is to hear the Bach Concert Series perform it in Christ Lutheran Church, a glorious, resonant space. Concert's at 4 pm, so when it's over I can walk right over the Inner Harbor for dinner.

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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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