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April 17, 2009

Mini-review: Baltimore Symphony program includes passionate Bruch, stirring Copland

Just a quick wrap-up of Thursday's Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performance at the Meyerhoff:

Marin Alsop led a stirring account of Copland's Third, a work that ought to be as familiar to American audiences as all the played-to-death Beethoven or Tchaikovsky symphonies. Using his own Fanfare for the Common Man as a starting and arriving point, Copland fashioned a score that   captures the essence of America, red state and blue state, in sounds and themes that ring true at nearly every turn. Alsop had the music flowing with considerable expressive power, and the BSO responded with dynamic, mostly well-disciplined playing.

The rest of the program was devoted to popular German pieces, Brahms' Haydn Variations and Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1. The former received a stately, pleasant account (thankfully uninterrupted by any shrieks from the folks who noticed a mouse darting across the main floor). The concerto featured concertmaster Jonathan Carney, who hit his highest peak to date as a soloist with the orchestra. Even allowing for an occasional off-center note, this was, on technical grounds alone, very classy fiddling. More importantly, Carney infused his phrasing with lots of good, old-fashioned, open-hearted lyricism. He had the music singing. He also had sensitive support from his colleagues onstage.

The whole program repeats Friday night; the Brahms and Bruch items will be played at Saturday morning's Casual Concert; the Copland gets all the attention at Saturday night's Off the Cuff presentation.

Posted by Tim Smith at 1:14 PM | | Comments (1)


No doubt, the Meyerhoff has quite the mouse problem. Can't decide whether to be outraged or sympathetic. Guessing they don't have the $$$ right now to pay exterminators.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to Carney tomorrow night.

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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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