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October 30, 2009

Baltimore Symphony soars with conductor Robert Spano

Not long after I arrived in Baltimore in 2000 (you thought you'd been suffering from me for a lot longer than nine years, didn't you?), I started asking why certain music and certain musicians didn't seem to turn up at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. I often got shrugs or vague answers from some of the folks who were running the show over there at the time.

One name I remember asking about was Robert Spano, the conductor who had hit the radar big-time in New York for his adventurous programming as music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic and who was tapped by the Atlanta Symphony in 2001. It seemed to me back then that Baltimore should be hearing what the fuss was all about. I'm happy to report that we have that opportunity this week. (UPDATE: Just learned that Spano first led the BSO out at Oregon Ridge in 1991 and returned in 1999 to conduct a program at Meyerhoff. I'm surprised it took a decade before he was got back.) 

Spano is here leading

a colorful program that surrounds a major contemporary work -- the Violin Concerto by John Adams -- with two war horses, Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" and Stravinsky's "Firebird" Suite. If you know what's good for you, you won't miss it.

Thursday night's performance at the Meyerhoff found Spano generating music-making of exceptional beauty and power in those two standard scores (concertmaster Jonathan Carney outdid himself in the "Scheherazade" solos), and providing supple support for brilliant violinist Leila Josefowicz in the concerto. I'll be writing a more detailed and maybe even cogent review later on today, but I wanted to get the word out early.

The full program repeats Friday night; the Adams and Stravinsky pieces will be played at the Casual Concert Saturday morning; "Scheherazade" is the focus of Saturday night's Off-the-Cuff concert.

Posted by Tim Smith at 7:31 AM | | Comments (3)



I'm a huge Spano fan, but I felt the concert, particularly the Firebird Suite, was uninspired.

Although, the Adams piece was performed quite well, I thought. Ms. Josefowicz was fabulous (her dress was bizarre, but she pulled that off well, too!).

Gee, I don't remember her pulling her dress off. TS

I attended the show Thursday night, and was not disappointed. The Orchestra played beautifully under Spano's clear and energetic direction. Numerous soloistic passages for the section leaders were nailed both in the Rimsky-Korsakov and the Stravinsky, and I agree Jonathan Carney and his Mercur-Avery led the way. All this plus Miss Josefewicz's dress. Far from uninspired in my opinion. Bravo!

Hi Tim! Good to see you again a month ago. I just thought I'd note that I agree with you on this one:

Thanks. And this reminds me to get you on my blog roll, which I meant to do long ago. 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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