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January 10, 2011

It's an unofficial Philip Glass week in Baltimore, thanks to BSO, Mobtown Modern

Nothing like a little synergy.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has one of its cool programs of the season on the schedule for the weekend at Meyerhoff and Strathmore, featuring the multi-media work "Icarus at the Edge of Time," based on the popular children's book by science-demystifier Brian Greene.

Glass composed the score for the 2010 piece, which has a narrative devised by Greene and celebrated playwright David Henry Hwang and a film created by the imaginative British team known as Al and Al. Marin Alsop conducts. NPR's Scott Simon will narrate.

You can read more about "Icarus" elsewhere on the Sun's Web site.

To help you get in the mood for that program, Mobtown Modern will offer some cool Glass, too, Wednesday night at the Windup Space. The program is devoted to a complete performance of

"Glassworks," a 1981 chamber work for woodwinds, brass, strings, piano and synthesizer. Joining Mobtown players will be members of the BSO in the first collaboration between the two organizations. Alsop is expected to drop by for a pre-concert talk with Mobtown curator Brian Sacawa.

"Glassworks" helped increase the composer's popularity at a time when mainstream critics were still prone to dismiss, if not revile, him. I've always been partial to the piece myself, especially the first movement, "Opening." I hear in it a sort of connective tissue stretching back through the centuries to the famous C major Prelude by Bach.

OK, maybe that's way too much stretching, since Glass doesn't travel as far harmonically, but I still think there's something in the rhythmic pattern and the basic outline that links the two items. And I also think they share a subtle emotional power.

A lot of the criticism aimed at Glass when he first arrived on the scene was that he was too far outside classical music norms to be taken seriously. Every time I hear "Opening," I think of him being right there in the continuum. To make my point (well, I hope so), I've attached clips of the Bach Prelude and the Glass work here:

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Posted by Tim Smith at 11:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BSO, Classical, Clef Notes

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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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