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September 15, 2010

Post-Classical Ensemble spotlights Gershwin at Clarice Smith Center

Has every angle of Gershwin been covered? Not likely. That most American of composers continues to fascinate scholars, just as he continues to engage audiences. The DC-based Post-Classical Ensemble, which can be counted on to devise programs that offer abundant context and fresh perspective, offers "The Gershwin Project: Russian Gershwin" next week at the Clarice Smith Center.

The composer, born in New York to Russian immigrants, has long been more unabashedly admired by non-American musicians than his own countrymen. I still remember the way former BSO music director Yuri Temirkanov used to talk about Gershwin, always with the word "genius" said several times and with a sense of puzzlement over why some American orchestras seemed to think Gershwin was primarily for pops concerts.

As Joseph Horowitz, Post-Classical's artistic director, points out in program notes for next week's presentation, "eminent European-born musicians admired Gershwin without the qualms typically expressed by eminent Americans ... And so we should not be amazed that, behind the Iron Curtain, jazz and Gershwin were embraced with enthusiasm even when Soviet cultural propagandists looked askance."

To drive this point home, Post-Classical has engaged

Russians pianists for the concert on Sept. 24 -- Genadi Zagor and Vakhtang Kodanashvili, "products of Russian training [who] grew up in a musical culture that was never ambivalent about Gershwin."

Zagor will offer an improvisation on a Gershwin prelude and will improvise the solos in "Rhapsody in Blue," an unusual, but certainly Gershwin-esque, touch. Also on the concert will be the "Cuban Overture" and the Concerto in F. Angel Gil-Ordóñez, Post-Classical's music director, will conduct.

During a free concert on Sept. 21, Kodanashvili will play Gershwin songs and Zagor will improvise on the composer's music and take suggestions for more improvising from the audience. There will also be a free concert on Sept. 21 by the UM School of Music Faculty Jazz Ensemble featuring further takes on the great Gershwin songbook. Discussions are also part of the schedule. It should all make for interesting time in College Park. 


Posted by Tim Smith at 10:03 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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