« Placido Domingo to undergo surgery, curtail performing | Main | A salute to baritone John Reed, eminent Gilbert and Sullivan specialist »

February 23, 2010

This week's should-hear musical events

It's another remarkably full week, in terms of classical music genres and diversity within those genres.

Naturally, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to catch everything, but it's fun to be spoiled for choice.

Tuesday's attraction is a wide-ranging vocal program featuring Peabody faculty members Stacey Mastrian (soprano) and Steven Rainbolt (baritone), among others. There will be works by Purcell, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms and Saint-Saëns, as well as contemporary composers Andre Previn and Tom Cipullo.

Wednesday brings another adventure from Mobtown Modern at Metro Gallery, this time taking on John Zorn's challenge in "COBRA," an ensemble work from 1984 that allows great improvisational freedom -- there's really no score, per se, just cue cards. A sterling lineup of instrumentalists has been assembled for the experience. 

At the same time, several blocks away at the Engineer's Club, another burst of improvisation will be going on, this one by gifted members of Harmonious Blacksmith, harpsichordist Joseph Gascho and recorder player Justin Godoy. They'll add their own improvised fancies, the way baroque artists did centuries ago, as part of a program that also includes works by Bach, Matthew Locke and others.

Speaking of improv, Thursday brings  

pianist Robert Levin to the Meyerhoff stage for an appearance with the Baltimore Symphony to perform Beethoven's Concerto No. 1; he'll also offer some improvisations at the keyboard in the spirit of the composer, who, like many classical instrumentalists of that day, developed improvisational skills. (The program is repeated Friday at Meyerhoff, Saturday at Strathmore.) 

And on the subject of pianists and Beethoven, Benjamin Pasternack will play the composer's "Waldstein" Sonata in a recital Thursday at Peabody. This excellent pianist, a member of the Peabody faculty, has also chosen works by Mozart, Haydn, Copland (the daunting Piano Variations) and Bernstein (Pasternack's own transcription of the Three Dance Episodes from “On the Town”).   

Friday introduces opera into the week's mix. Debussy's "Pelleas et Melisande" is one of the most exquisite works in the repertoire, but also one of most infrequently encountered. Opera Vivente, which staged a chamber orchestra arrangement of the work a few seasons ago at Emanuel Episcopal, returns to the material now in an abridged version by Marius Constant. Called "Impressions of Pelleas," this treatment aims to preserve the essence of the deeply layered love story and uses two pianos in place of the original orchestra to capture the multiple shades of the score. Performances continue Feb. 28, March 4 and 6.

Also on Friday, the new kid on the block, Chesapeake Concert Opera, opens a two-night run of Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore" in concert form with piano at Memorial Episcopal (Episcopalians sure are welcoming to opera, aren't they?). 

Speaking of opera-in-concert, the famed Mariinsky Theatre from St. Petersburg opens a residency at the Kennedy Center with an unstaged performance of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" Friday night, led by podium superstar Valery Gergiev. The company will also offer Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov" in concert form Feb. 28 and two programs of excerpts from several Russian operas March 3 and 4 (the latter date is to feature popular soprano Anna Netrebko). There will also be a full staging of Prokofiev's monumental "War and Peace" March 6 and 7.

The week just keeps on giving.

Friday and Saturday finds the Annapolis Symphony celebrating the romantic and sensual in music at the Maryland Hall. The Peabody Symphony tackles Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra and more on Saturday. 

Also on Saturday, the Artemis String Quartet makes its contribution to the Beethoven quartet cycle being presented by Candlelight Concerts in Columbia. The program includes the "Serioso" Quartet and Op. 127. 

I can't even start thinking about next Sunday, 'cause there's too big a pile-up of musical possibilities. More on that anon. 



Posted by Tim Smith at 8:09 AM | | Comments (5)


Quite a cornucopia of musical activity. Here’s a brief shill for the Annapolis Symphony. Great music including Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite, R. Strauss’ Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome, Piazzolla’s Tangazo and Ravel’s Bolero. Those Sexy Sounds should get everyone in the mood.

Finally, we get a performance of something by John Zorn in the area. If this isn't a first, then it sure as heck seems like one to me!

Now, if we could only get someone to do something from his "Masada" and "Book of Angels" projects, then we'd really be pulling ourselves out of the Dark Ages.

Can you tell I'm a fan? ;^)

I'd also like to plug another concert. On Friday, the Peabody at Homewood concert series will present the Baltimore premier of my "Hurricane Charm" for two pianos and percussion performed by Peabody/Hopkins alumni and students.

I appreciate your habit of giving free plugs to the local classical music scene. Each of these performers deserves as large an audience as they can muster, and you mentioning them certainly helps in that regard. I would hope that you won't wait too long to provide a listing of Sunday's performances, after people have already made plans for the weekend, leaving Sunday's performers out of the mix. Specifically, I am referring to the Baltimore Choral Arts Society's concert at Goucher College, Eternal Light, which features Schubert's charming Mass in G followed by Morton Lauridsen's stunningly original and beautiful Lux Aeterna. This concert really should not be missed and deserves notice. (By the way, I would like to invite you to join us at Kraushaar Auditorium at 3:00 as well.)

Thanks for the invite. And I will, of course, give my own plug for the choral concert as soon as I get a moment to return to blogging. TS

Tim, as automatically biased as this is (for those that don' t know, I help put the programs together), I can't help but notice that you didn't mention the Chamber Music by Candlelight concert this past Sunday evening (2/29) at the Second Presbyterian in your previews. Please do include such, if I may say, well-programed and high quality series in your writings, even if you can't make it to our concerts lately.
Ivan Stefanovic, violinist, BSO

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

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.
View the Artsmash blog

Baltimore Sun coverage
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop
Famous faces in classical music
Sign up for FREE entertainment alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Most Recent Comments
Stay connected