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May 20, 2010

Strathmore's 2010-11 season to feature Stravinsky, Sondheim and guitar fest

stephen sondheimBaltimore area folks can be forgiven if they think of Strathmore primarily as a venue for the BSO, but many other performers, of course, are featured at this major cultural center. The variety of activity there has been impressive since the place opened in 2005 -- my own favorite non-BSO events at Strathmore include a Barbara Cook concert and a venture spearheaded by the center to celebrate a forgotten 19th century African American opera company. Great stuff happens all the time there, and maybe if they ever finish that inter-county connector thing (and if it lives up to its promised ease), I'll get to experience more of it.

I'm certainly tempted already by some of the attractions on Strathmore's just-announced 2010-2011 season, including a Great American Song series that includes concerts by Patti LaBelle, Mandy Patinkin, Johnny Mathis, Ann Callaway and Liz Hampton Callaway, and Dave Brubeck.

But the super-big news of that series is an afternoon of conversation with Stephen Sondheim (he'll be interviewed by Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks). For the "Sondheim Is God" crowd (I've been known to worship at that church myself), this Nov. 14 encounter with the 80-year-old music theater legend is going to set off serious palpitations. "He's one of the people we have wanted to present for a long time," says Shelley Brown, Strathmore's artistic director. "We were looking for a way to bring him here. He has a new book coming out, so that provided a good way to do this."

On the classical side, a major component to the season will be

the Stravinsky Project next April, co-produced by Strathmore and the Post-Classical Ensemble. Put together by Joseph Horowitz, the series will offer a multi-faceted look at the Russian-ness of Stravinsky (a lively theme the New York Philharmonic just explored). "Les Noces" and Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments are among the scheduled works to be presented; pianist Alexander Toradze will be among the featured performers.

Note, too, Strathmore's Guitar Festival, which will run through the season. "It's a look at the development of the guitar from the lute on," Brown says, "chronologically and geographically." The pipa will be included in the survey, played by virtuoso Wu Man; the mandolin will get a nod, as well, played by the sensational Chris Thile. Classical guitarists taking part include Jason Vieaux and Ana Vidovic; among those from the pop/rock/jazz side taking part will be Kris Kristofferson, Del McCoury, John Scofield and more.

The guitar fest will offer the American premiere of Steve Reich’s "2x5," performed by Bang on a Can All Stars, and the world premiere of Aaron Grad’s "The Father Book," performed by Grad and bassist Rob Jost. Another starry event on the guitar series is likely to be announced shortly.

From Savion Glover to the Baltimore Consort, it's a fun lineup for '10-'11. "We have really tried, from the birth of the Music Center, to feature the best music from the widest possible genres," Brown says. Looks to me like Strathmore has succeeded.


Posted by Tim Smith at 1:14 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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