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September 9, 2009

A musical observance of 09-09-09

You can get a little nutty thinking about what to post on a blog. I woke up with the notion that there should be a musical way to observe the cool date of 09-09-09. Why, I couldn't tell you. Just seemed like the thing to do.

Ninth symphonies seemed too obvious. So, then I wondered about all the pieces of music that bore the designation Op. 9 (meaning that the work -- opus -- is the ninth by a composer to get published).

I'm terrible at remembering opus numbers, so I just did a quick little search to see what kinds of pieces would turn up bearing the designation Op. 9.

I figured I'd pick three very different items with that opus number, but I found myself drawn instead to Chopin's Nocturnes, Op. 9, especially since there are three pieces in that set. Bingo, I silently declared -- three 9s. (OK, so it IS a stretch -- you try to come up with a classical version of 09-09-09 after too little sleep. Go ahead. I dare you.)

So hear are the three Nocturnes of Chopin's Op. 9, each played by

a different pianist from the past, and each offering an example of individualistic interpretive styling. Op. 9, No. 1: the noble Richter. Op. 9, No. 2: the supremely poetic Cortot. Op. 9, No. 3: the patrician Rubinstein. They just don't make them like this anymore.

Posted by Tim Smith at 7:02 AM | | Comments (3)


I ran across your article today , as I was looking for interesting facts of 09/09/09 ... and I'd like to thank you for this one you wrote. Our Music of yesteryear is what our music of today thrives on . As I played each one , it took me back to several beautiful movies I thought were lost somewhere in my mind. Thank you for that .
I'm a Facebooker and so I posted this article on my Wall today in hopes to share with someone who'd like to also be taken back to a time of once was .
Thank you Tim ... your now in my Favorites and I can hardly wait to begin to read your many articles and try to catch up with 09/09/09 .

Hey, thanks for the comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the music (and didn't think I was being too silly). TIM

Ironically, while I'm a rabid Richter devotee, I absolutely can't _stand_ his Chopin. I think this particular nocturne (one of my favourites, so I have my own whole conept for the piece) sounds like a clunkasaurus under his (usually-super-human) fingers. Ugh. (And he's just _too_ bloody loud -- more like he's wandering the dark streets, drunk and banging onto/into/through doors/walls, than contemplating the night with a hint of cognac on the brain. ;^)

I mean, I know the whole "guns beneath flowers" bit, but this sounds like a column of Shermans under the rose-beds. Easy there, big fella!

Cortot and Rubinstein, on the other hand, were 100% naturals with Chopin. I know these recordings well and love them.

Now, the obvious 9/9/9 connection, disregarding that "opus" bit: Beethoven-Bruckner-Mahler. Heavens to Betsy! (Or is this just _too_ obvious?) How can you possibly beat _that_ trifecta!?! Someone, somewhere, should have scheduled this!!!

There's also Arnold Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1, op. 9, though that's not necessarily on anyone's classical hit parade.

It would certainly be worthy of the hit parade, in my book. As you can see, mine was a terribly shallow search. If I could have come up with a significant Op. 999, of course, I would have been in business. TIM

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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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