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February 23, 2011

Peabody Symphony showcases Marina Piccinini, Kevin Puts

I checked out the Peabody Symphony Orchestra concert Tuesday night to hear the artistry of two faculty members -- flutist Marina Piccinini and composer Kevin Puts.

I didn't have the energy to hang on for the rest of the program, devoted to selections from Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, but I imagine that portion found the talents of Peabody's director of orchestral activities, Hajime Teri Murai, and the students in the ensemble on impressive display.

The orchestra certainly had much to offer at the start of the evening in "Hymn to the Sun," a 2008 work by Puts that reveals, above all, his sterling command of instrumental coloring and knack for creating rhythmic energy.

Inspired by images of ancient Egyptians in a sacred dance to coax the sun's arrival, the music is filled with brilliant sonic bursts. Some of the melodic and harmonic action has the familiar ring of

an epic Hollywood film score (not that there's anything wrong with that), and the pounding coda veers ever so close to the cheesy, but who cares?

"Hymn to the Sun" is an awful lot of fun and it received a decidedly energetic, mostly solid performance.

Piccinini was showcased in Ibert's sparkly Flute Concerto. It has its fluffy side (not that there's anything wrong with that, either), but the work packs in considerable melodic vitality.   

The soloist went far beyond the notes, which she articulated with remarkable technical purity, and created a wealth of tonal and dynamic nuances that enlivened every phrase. A very classy demonstration of musicality.

Murai kept the orchestral side of things perking along nicely and, a few cloudy spots aside, the orchestra responded with cohesion and sensitivity.


Posted by Tim Smith at 7:09 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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