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January 12, 2010

Gunther Herbig to step in for ailing Jiri Belohlavek at Baltimore Symphony

Drat the luck.

I've been waiting patiently for a substantial dose of Janacek in Baltimore Symphony programming, and 10 days before one was due, it has been yanked away.

Turns out that distinguished Czech conductor Jiri Belohlavek had some sort of accident over the holidays and his doctor advised rest, which meant canceling on the Beethoven-Dvorak-Janacek program he was to have performed with the BSO Jan. 22-24.

In stepped Gunther Herbig, the always welcome German-born conductor, a frequent BSO podium guest. But he, alas, must not have either Dvorak’s "Othello" Overture or Janacek’s "Taras Bulba" in his rep, 'cause they're both off the program, replaced with the Schumann Fourth. The Beethoven works remain the same: "Coriolan" and, with the fab Garrick Ohlsson, Piano Concerto No. 3.

I hope someone is feverishly trying to make amends by getting a big Janacek work or two into the BSO's yet-to-be-announced 2010-11 season. "Glagolitic Mass," anyone?


Posted by Tim Smith at 1:48 PM | | Comments (3)


Let's hope maestro Belohlavek gets healthy soon.

For me it's a double-bummer since this week-end I had a ticket at a Philadelphia Orchestra concert in which Belohlavek was supposed to conduct Martinu's 3rd Symphony. In his place Juanjo Mena will conduct the Pastoral. Interesting what a Philly Orchestra spokesperson said: the conductor had "bad luck":

Hard to believe that maestro Herbig does not have Janacek in his repertoire; instead of Taras Bulba, we could have had perhaps the Sinfonietta. But at least the NSO will perform Taras Bulba at the end of March and I also saw From the House of the Dead at the Met - but I was one of the few naysayers: I felt that Chereau's powerful production distracted us from the music.

My mouth has been watering waiting for the Janacek here and the Martinu in Philadelphia this week-end. We don’t enough of either composer in Baltimore. Sad to hear, but not looking forward to this concert any more.

Here are some second thoughts. Both the Baltimore Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra have assistant conductors; in Philadelphia, Danail Rachev is also music director of the Eugene Symphony, where Marin Alsop was director at one time (so was Miguel Harth-Bedoya.) So why not give these conductors a chance to shine? After all, what is the role of the assistant conductor?

Excellent question. And if the assistant couldn't step in (an assistant, at least theoretically, would have studied up on the rep), finding another conductor who could retain the program should not have been impossible. As for the BSO, I remember James Judd stepping in several times on short notice for Temirkanov, even learning a world premiere concerto on one of those occasions. So I find it odd that a conductor couldn't be found who would embrace "Taras Bulba," if not both that work and the rather rare Dvorak piece. I know all programs are subject to change, but that doesn't mean they should. 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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