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May 24, 2009

Blogging from Germany and the Dresden Music Festival

Just flew into Dresden and, boy, are my arms tired. Wait a minute. Wrong audience. Let me rephrase that.

Got to Germany Sunday morning after one of those typically draining trans-Atlantic flights in steerage class, then reached Dresden that afternoon feeling beat. But, after 16 hours or so of travel time from Baltimore, I had a rush of energy from seeing this seemingly spotless city drenched in a bright sunshine that even gave the cobblestoned plazas an extra sparkle.

I'm here on my first visit to this historic spot to attend ...

the Dresden Music Festival, which started more than three decades ago (when the city was still part of East Germany) and which regularly features leading musicians.

I'm also here as part of a group of North American and European music critics who will be spending the next few days discussing the future of our profession -- maybe not the cheeriest of subjects, but it's bound to offer interesting perspectives on how we will or will not surivive in the era of shrinking newspapers, proliferating blogs and Twittering.

The festival's overriding theme this year is the New World, reflected in the presence of several American artists and repertoire on the schedule. I imagined, as I strolled about in my jet-lagged state, that this theme must have spread to the local dining establishments, since one of the first places I spotted on a quiet side street was Santa Fe Tex-Mex Restaurant. I snapped a picture so I could show Elizabeth Large, the Sun's restaurant critic and superstar blogger, a bit of Dresden's trendiness. Sorry the pic is so lousy; it was taken with my phone. I'm not much for snapping away, but I couldn't resist this remidner of Americana on my first day in a city that is showcasing American music this year (and that is planning to welcome President Obama sometime next week.)

There was another unexpected dash of New Worldiness when three fellow music journalists and I took a table on the second floor balcony of a charming (what else?) cafe a stone's throw from the stunning Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), destroyed in the 1945 fire-bombing of Dresden, but painstakingly restored to its early 18th century beauty. Within two minutes of taking our seats, we heard "The Sounds of Silence," sung by a Latin-accented guy playing the guitar on the cobblestones below. If only we had had real silence instead. Bob Dylan classics followed.

After dinner, time for our first big concert. And what did I hear as part of this New World-themed Dresden Music Festival? Works by Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. More on that after I get some sleep.


Posted by Tim Smith at 5:19 PM | | Comments (1)


Sounds delicious. Have a wonderful time! Will look forward to your updates.

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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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