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November 12, 2009

Jean-Yves Thibaudet to play rare version of Gershwin's Concerto in F

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra welcomes back French pianist (and fashion plate) Jean-Yves Thibaudet for two weeks of programs, the first one devoted to Gershwin. In today's paper, I've got a story about Thibaudet that you may find worth a read.

What makes this weekend's Gershwin fest of particular interest is the inclusion of a rarely heard jazz orchestra arrangement by Ferde Grofe of

the Concerto in F, an arrangement requested by Paul Whiteman for use with his band. 

I had forgotten (until she reminded me) about the recording Marin Alsop made of that arrangement with her Concordia orchestra almost 20 years ago -- "When I was in my real jazz phase," she told me earlier this week. I had filed that disc with my Gershwin music theater CDs, since the big item on the recording is his forgotten mini-opera "Blue Monday," which Alsop and the BSO will present later this season. (One of these days I've got to prepare a thorough catalog of my CDs. Too daunting a task.)

Anyway, the concerto certainly takes on a different, lean flavor in the Grofe version. Alsop tracked this arrangement down at Williams College, which housed the Paul Whiteman archives. The music wasn't in the best shape in the early '90s. "Reading Sanskrit would be easier than reading the original score," Alsop said. The parts have since been recopied in preparation for the BSO concerts. Should be fun hearing the concerto live.

The BSO performances with Thibaudet of that work, along with "Rhapsody in Blue" and "I Got Rhythm" Variations, are being recorded for Decca. That will be the third label to feature Alsop and the orchestra since she became music director.

The BSO has been a great advocate for Gershwin for quite a while, including during the tenure of Yuri Temirkanov, who was a huge fan of the composer and led some very snazzy performances of his work.

Posted by Tim Smith at 7:56 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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