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January 31, 2010

We was robbed; no Grammy for the BSO

Gee, wasn't the humiliation of the football season enough? No, our fair city had to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra lose the 2010 Grammy for Best Classical Album to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

I'd call it a travesty of justice if it weren't for the fact that there was some very starry, solid competition in this category. Still, the BSO's sizzling recording of Bernstein's "Mass" had "winner" all over it, at least in my book. A very tough score to perform, and one that conductor Marin Alsop grasped with all her might, generating from the orchestra, Morgan State University Choir, Peabody Children's Chorus, baritone Jibilant Sykes and the other soloists a powerhouse, deeply moving performance.

Oh, well, if it had to lose, at least it was to a recording of another monumental challenge,

Mahler's Symphony No. 8, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting. His cycle of the Mahler symphonies with the SFSO has been justly praised since it was launched several years ago.

And there was a little consolation for the BSO, I suppose, in that the producer for "Mass," Steven Epstein, won a Grammy for Producer of the Year. And it wasn't a total washout for Marin, either -- she conducted the recording of Jennifer Higdon's Percussion Concerto (with the London Philharmonic) that won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Posted by Tim Smith at 8:20 PM | | Comments (1)


I wouldn't lose too much sleep over this -- of all the official "awards" given to various aspects of the arts and media, I consider the Grammy to be the most meaningless.

Of course, I argue against the whole concept of "annual award for best..." period, because art isn't measured in months or years, and "best" is so relative and subjective a term as to defy honest assessment.

Of course, I'll contradict myself immediately and say that Bernstein the composer would _never_ stand a chance against Mahler the composer, IMHumO. (Their comparison as conductors is far more open to debate. ;^)

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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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