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September 21, 2010

Sunday in review: Keng-Yuen Tseng and Maggini violin; guitarist Ana Vidovic

I spent my Sunday afternoon in a Peabody frame of mind.

The 390-year-old Maggini instrument recently donated to the Peabody Institute lived up to its advance publicity in a lively program performed in Goodwin Hall by the excellent violinist Keng-Yuen Tseng, chair of the string department at the conservatory.

Afterward, I headed down the street to An die Musik, where first-rate guitarist Ana Vidovic, who studied at Peabody with Manuel Barrueco, gave a recital.

Tseng's concert marked the public debut of the Maggini fiddle, donated by Karl Kostoff, an 85-year-old Montgomery County resident who left the orchestral world in the early 1950s (he played for a time in the BSO and NSO) to pursue a career in the scientific arena. 

He acquired the violin without knowing its value, paying $9,000 40 years ago for a bit of history recently appraised -- conservatively, some would say -- at $350,000. It's now the most valuable instrument in Peabody's collection.

A packed house turned out for the Maggini's first appearance in public. Tseng devised a sensibly short, colorful cross-section of repertoire to show off the fiddle, especially its darkly beautiful tone, which registered to keen effect in

pieces by de Falla and the Heifetz arrangement of Gershwin's "Bess, You Is My Woman Now."

The violin's quality was matched by the violinist's. Tseng sculpted Dvorak's "Romance" with particular warmth and brought abundant charm to some of Kreisler's less-often encountered bon-bons ("La Gitana" and "Toy Soldier's March"). In "Bess," Tseng had the fiddle "singing" wonderfully. His accompanist, Sheng-Yuan Kuan, a grad student at Peabody, provided admirable technical finesse and expressive flair at the piano. The crowd coaxed two encores from the players, including, appropriately, the Bach piece popularly known as "Air on a G String." As Tseng noted, the Maggini has a very nice G string.

Ana Vidovic has become a major artist in the classical guitar world. Her appearance at An die Musik reconfirmed why. She has a finely honed technique and a remarkable stylistic sensitivity that allows her to communicate eloquently.

I caught the first half of her sold-out recital, which included two of the greatest hits from the guitar repertoire, Tarrega's "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" and Albeniz's "Asturias," both delivered with a deliciously subtle range of expressive coloring. A sampling of Piazzolla's seductive work inspired sensual playing. Vidovic brought a spontaneous touch to three of Toru Takemitsu's disarming arrangements of pop songs, including the Doris Day classic "Secret Love."

It was also great to hear Stanley Myers' "Cavatina," the bittersweet gem used as the main theme in the riveting film "The Deer Hunter," played so tenderly. Here's a video of Vidovic performing that exquisite "Cavatina." The video was taped at another place on another occasion, but it captures the same authority and artistry the guitarist demonstrated Sunday in Baltimore:


Posted by Tim Smith at 6:30 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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