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March 26, 2011

Your last-minute weekend musical suggestions

Having been out of town for several days, I quickly fell far, far behind when I got back to work on Friday. Among the many tasks left undone was a list of suggestions for your weekend listening pleasure.

However, this means that I can actually recommend one of the items from first-hand experience -- the Baltimore Symphony's program, which I heard Friday night at the Meyerhoff. There's a repeat at 8 on Saturday night at Strathmore, so, if you feel you can beat the onslaught of snow (oh, please, they've GOT to be kidding about that), the drive will be worth it.

For one thing, you'll get to hear a wonderfully refined, yet still passionate, account of the Grieg Piano Concerto from soloist Orion Weiss. There's something quite distinctively poetic in his tone and his phrasing; the evergreen music seemed to reveal lots of fresh growth as he played. The pianist enjoyed smooth rapport with conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier, who drew warm, dynamic playing from the BSO. Cello, flute and horn solos purred beautifully.

The program also offered terrifically animated, nuanced performances of two prismatic masterpieces: Ravel's "Valses nobles et sentimentales" and Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. The orchestra really does sound great these days. That sound would benefit from more strings (the BSO remains under ideal personnel size for budget reasons), but there's still an admirable richness, clarity, polish and, above all, expressive weight from these musicians on a regular basis.

If you're staying in Baltimore Saturday night, the Peabody Institute looks like the place to be at 8 p.m. There, Edward Polochick will lead his Concert Artists of Baltimore in a Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, a work likely to bring out the best of this engaging conductor's gifts. The concert also includes the "Emperor" Concerto, with soloist Clinton Adams, so this means one big Beethoven blast.

Sunday's many options include two choral events in Baltimore churches that should be well worth checking out -- or Czeching out, in one case. At 4 p.m.,  Christ Lutheran Church in the Inner Harbor will be the site of a world premiere presented by  ...

Bach Concert Series: "Passion," by Annapolis-area composer Hollis Thoms. The work is based on the Gospel of John, the disputed Gospel of Nicodemus, and religious poetry. T. Herbert Dimmock conducts the score, which calls for vocal soloists, mixed chorus, oboe, horn, strings, marimba and amplified harpsichord. There's a lot of information about the new work on the Bach Concert Series Web site.

And at 5 p.m. Columbia Pro Cantare, augmented by the choir of the Church of the Redeemer in a program of works by two great Czech composers whose choral music is not encountered often enough in live performance. Frances Motyca Dawson will conduct the combined ensembles in Dvorak's Mass in D and Janacek's Our Father.

Also on Sunday, you'll find Baltimore Concert Opera and the Chamber Music by Candlelight series offering colorful programs.


Posted by Tim Smith at 11:26 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes, Peabody Institute


I noticed in the BSO concerts that principal timpanist Dennis Kain has been absent from all the concerts that I have attended. Talking to his colleagues in the orchestra, they said that Mr. Kain had a serious medical condition but that he's getting better. Let's wish him a speedy recovery.

I've noticed that absence, too, and have been concerned. Such a fabulous player. 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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