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April 8, 2010

Fleisher to conduct Peabody Symphony this week, give benefit for BARCS in June

Leon Fleisher, the dean of Baltimore's classical music world, perks up ears whenever, wherever and however he appears. Any opportunity to savor such an extraordinary artist is automatically newsworthy.

This week, he's in conducting mode -- he'll lead the Peabody Symphony Orchestra in a program of Beethoven, Brahms and Ravel Friday night at the conservatory.

And it's not too early to note that

he'll be in pianistic mode June 4 for a recital of solo and duet repertoire, joined by his wife Katherine Jacobson Fleisher. The latter event, featuring music of Schumann, Chopin, Debussy and Ravel, will be a benefit for Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS).

I can't make Friday's Peabody Symphony concert (I'll be reviewing theater that night), so I stopped by for some of the rehearsal Thursday afternoon. I had hoped this was going to be closer to a dress rehearsal situation, affording an opportunity to hear Brahms' Symphony No. 2 all the way through. Instead, Fleisher devoted the first 90 minutes of the session to a single movement from that score (I couldn't stay for more, alas). It was instructive, affording much insight into Fleisher's thinking.

As a pianist, his recordings of the Brahms concertos are well known and highly prized for their technical mastery and expressive impact. From the podium, polish and sensitivity were likewise on his mind as he strove to get a tighter, more involved response from the students as they tackled the bracing finale of the Second Symphony. Fleisher did some particularly telling things with the broad, lyrical theme that warms up this closing movement, and he drove the coda along powerfully (taking full advantage of the two startling bits of silence that interrupt it).

The students are fortunate to be working with such a rare and insightful artist, to have the benefit of his long experience with living deeply inside the music of the masters.


Posted by Tim Smith at 5:27 PM | | 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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