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January 18, 2011

Music in the Great Hall spotlights promising clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich

Each year, the long-running concert series Music in the Great Hall shines a spotlight on a recent winner of the Peabody Conservatory's Yale Gordon Concerto Competition. It's a good way to keep up with some of the talent being honed at that school.

Last season, cellist Hans Kristian Goldstein's MIGH recital easily revealed what had caught the favor of the competition judges. And last Sunday, clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich likewise made it very clear why he received a Yale Gordon award.

Not surprisingly, Kanasevich demonstrated considerable technical strengths in the concert, which he shared with some Peabody colleagues. He offered plenty of expressive nuance as well, especially in the one standard repertoire item on his program, the F minor Sonata by Brahms.

The most impressive aspect to the program, though, was

the program itself. Daring to close with a ruminative, often glacial 40-minute score by the late Henryk Gorecki was a particularly daring touch (I hope the concert series doesn't get complaints from audience members). The first half, which included the Brahms piece, also had its contemporary side, thanks to a work by Peabody undergrad Viet Cuong. 

Cuong's "Zanelle" for unaccompanied clarinet provided Kanasevich a great curtain-raiser for the afternoon. It's a jaunty, jazzy score with concise melodic riffs that provide abundant material to develop. Kanasevich played it with admirable control and color.

The clarinetist, who studies with Peabody faculty member Anthony McGill, shaped the Brahms sonata elegantly. I would have liked even more warmth in the tone and, here and there, more breadth in the phrasing, but this was solid music-making, vividly supported by pianist Hui-Chuan Chen.

Cellist Dorotea Racs joined Chen and Kanasevich in an arresting account of Gorecki's "Recitatives and Ariosos (Lerchenmusik)." This work from the mid-1980s finds the composer in his familiar meditative mode, perhaps with an extra degree of brooding -- many somber, toll-like chords from the piano; many plaintive, long-held notes on the cello.

The clarinet is the primary mood-changer here, setting off ecstatic, Messiaen-like bursts in the first movement, and joining the cello in the second for tightly meshed lines that rock back and forth over the keyboard's determined sobriety. Though there's an almost "Rite of Spring" energy in the first portion of the finale, the pious chant, gentle harmony and unhurried pacing return to close the score as it began -- in some deep, personal, spiritual place.

Kanasevich and his collaborators made a persuasive case for this fascinating work.


Posted by Tim Smith at 1:00 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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