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May 25, 2009

Dresden Festival offers soothing Schubert, Schumann from Bavarian Radio Orchestra/Chorus

The weekend's lineup at the Dresden Music Festival, which opeend May 20 and runs through June 7, included a concert by the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam with hot-shot conductor Gustavo Dudamel and stellar pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, as well as a recital by pianist Gabriela Montero (of improvise-on-themes-from-the-audience fame -- she did one of those recitals in Baltimore this season). I missed those and other events, since they happened before I got here, but I just thought I'd mention them anyway. Gives you an idea of the variety at the festival.

Sunday night was to have been notable for an appearance by the always interesting conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. He was indisposed, however, and the podium was turned over to ...

young British conductor Daniel Harding. It still turned out to be a pleasant concert, held in the cavernous Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross), which boasts a boys choir with roots going back 700 years (there's something humbling about such statistics in an age when anything that has lasted even seven years is passe).

Anyway, Harding led the forces through a rapt performance of Schumann's deeply poetic Nachtlied and a nicely shaped, often glowing account of Schubert's Mass No. 6 in E-flat. I was delighted to hear the latter again just for the extraordinary musical ideas in it, especiallly the dramatic Sanctus that seems to point directly to Bruckner.

The Bavarian chorus made a superb sound, so warm and smoothly blended. Five excellent soloists contributed to the Mass,among them soprano Christiane Oelze and tenors Werner Gura and Markus Schafer, whose exquisite phrasing in the Et homo factus est passage was worth the trip. Throughout the evening, Harding was mindful of the substantial reverberation in the church, keeping tempos restrained so that lines didn't get swallowed up. Since I'm weird enough to love very slow music-making, I didn't mind at all.

Off to a confab with fellow critics and, later, more music.  

Posted by Tim Smith at 6:30 AM | | 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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