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March 29, 2010

Weekend roundup: Recitals by two popular veterans of Baltimore's music scene

In addition to a couple of plays in DC, I slipped into portions of two Baltimore recitals over the weekend, each one featuring a popular, longtime contributor to the local cultural life.

On Saturday night, pianist Ernest Ragogini drew a sizable audience to LeClerc Auditorium at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. The engaging artist has been a musical anchor at the school for more than 30 years, valued for his erudition and sensitivity. In addition to teaching, he founded the Music at CND concert series and co-directs the Liszt/Garrison Festival and International Piano Competition held at the college.

I caught the first half of his program, which began with a thoughtful, clear-cut account of Bach's Chromatic Fantasie and Fugue. The pianist's articulation wasn't entirely crystalline in the two big Chopin pieces that followed, but his sense of architectural cohesion, tonal nuance and a singing line paid off nicely in the A-flat major Ballade and the F minor Fantasie (the martial tune that turns up in the latter was approached with particularly effective vitality).

Sunday afternoon found me at

Second Presbyterian Church, where another good-sized crowd gathered to hear what was billed as the final public recital by organist Margaret Budd and, on the second half of the event (I couldn't stay), a recital by guitarist David Burgess.

Budd was organist at the church for more than 30 years and is the founding director of Community Concerts at Second, the free series that has been a mainstay of Sunday musical activity in the city. She also happens to be one of the most amiable figures on the local music scene. (One of the first dreadful things I did after starting on this job a decade ago was to accept an invitation from Budd to meet for lunch and then forget to show up. I couldn't have been more embarrassed; she couldn't have been more gracious.)

This farewell performance almost didn't happen. Budd has been fighting pneumonia and, last week, had to have her dog euthanized. She had more than enough reason to cancel, but decided to go ahead anyway (she thanked antibiotics in remarks to the audience), but wisely reduced the program from five to three pieces.

She offered an atmospheric account of Franck's Prelude, Fugue and Variation; you could almost smell the incense as the darkly beautiful music unfolded. Frederick Swann's retro Trumpet Tune got a buoyant workout. Whatever cloudiness of execution crossed her playing of Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, the nobility and breadth of the score emerged tellingly.


Posted by Tim Smith at 11:31 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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