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January 31, 2011

Aspen String Trio plays Beethoven for Community Concerts at Second

Nothing like Beethoven to lure people out of their snowy domains.

A spill-over crowd gathered to hear the Aspen String Trio play an all-Beethoven program Sunday afternoon for the Community Concerts series at Second Presbyterian Church (I guess the free admission may also help attract folks -- either way, it was great to see such a large house).

The string quartet genre, which has accounted for so many masterpieces over the centuries, rather overshadows the trio repertoire. But Beethoven's trios of Op. 9 are filled with deft themes and clever development passages; they're tightly constructed. If these efforts from 1798 do not reveal all the brilliance and depth he would unleash later on in his quartets, they are, at the very least, consistently engaging.

The Aspen players -- violinist David Perry, violist Victoria Chiang, cellist Michael Mermagen -- demonstrated tight ensemble playing, generally spot-on intonation and an effective way of digging into a phrase.

There was plenty of drama and warmth in the C minor Trio, Op. 9, No. 3. The mix of lyricism and muscle the musicians brought to the G major Trio, Op. 9, No. 1, proved even more impressive; the irresistible, whirling finale -- you can really sense Beethoven showing off here -- was delivered with particular panache.

Posted by Tim Smith at 5:16 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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