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October 15, 2010

Mobtown Modern continues to make Baltimore cooler with concert by Victoire, Sirota

I finally caught up with Mobtown Modern's new season the other night (schedule conflicts of every kind have been plentiful lately). I'm not crazy about the organization's new home at Windup Space, mainly because that place has such an unwelcoming exterior on such an unwelcoming corner of Baltimore. But what counts is the scene inside, I know, and there was much to savor Wednesday as Mobtown continued its effort to make Baltimore a musically cooler city.

The program started with a solo set by violist Nadia Sirota, who brought a sterling technique and vividly communicative style to an intriguing sampling of early 21st century works (she's got the ideal DNA for this fare -- her father is composer Robert Sirota, former director of the Peabody Institute).

Among her selections were

Nico Muhly's "Period Instrument," with its gentle motor rhythms and increasingly lyrical streak; Missy Mazzoli's work-in-progress, "Tooth and Nail," a vibrantly pulsating, multi-colored work; and Caleb Burhans' "Unspeakable Truths," a sort of neo-baroque/new age fusion.

Mazzoli was the focus for the rest of the evening, performing her works with her well-matched ensemble Victoire. The composer's distinctive sound reveals a nod to what might called traditional minimalism and another nod to rock. There's energy and occasional grit, but, more than anything else, a beguiling subtlety and beauty.

Part of the appeal is in the instrumentation of Victoire -- violin (Olivia de Prato), clarinet (Eileen Mack), double bass (Eleonore Oppenheim) and electronic keyboards (Mazzoli and Lorna Krier). It's rather Brahmsian at heart, which may be one reason why the music is so damn hypnotic. Highlights included "Cathedral City," with its sampled sound bites of James Joyce, and the gently propulsive "A Song for Arthur Russell."

Victoire's debut album is just out on New Amsterdam Records. I want to get a copy -- I think you'd like it, too. Here's a live performance of the title cut, "Cathedral City":

Posted by Tim Smith at 10:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes


Wasn't this concert Wednesday night?

You're lucky I got the right week. But, yes, it was Wednesday, and I have corrected the entry accordingly. Thanks for the catch. TIM

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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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