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April 4, 2011

Bach Concert Series presents earnest performance of B Minor Mass

Bach's B Minor Mass stands as an awesome testament to the composer's genius and his faith.

In purely musical terms, it serves as a summation of the contrapuntal art. For those with spiritual leanings, it serves as keen reminder of humankind's search for truths and solace. As much as this Mass speaks to specific creeds, it is also universal in its reach, its embrace.

I stepped out of my long spring vacation Sunday afternoon (as I have done, and will continue to do, for select events) to catch a presentation of the Mass by the Bach Concert Series at the Inner Harbor's Christ Church, an inviting setting for such music.

There was a good turnout (most of the series is free, but this one had an admission charge). Not that it's important, but I must say ...

it was fascinating to see such a large, age-diverse crowd that looked quite unlike the usual symphony, chamber music or opera set. I guess Bach and the B Minor Mass exert a different pull.

Conductor T. Herbert Dimmock favored tempos on the propulsive side, much in line with contemporary thinking about baroque practice. I would not have minded more of an individualistic approach; the performance took on a generic quality.

The chorus made a valiant effort. Intonation and articulation were not entirely reliable; the men's voices lacked heft. Still, expressive feeling was there in abundance. On the solo front, countertenor Biraj Barkakaty was a disappointment; his voice lacked subtlety and warmth. The others -- soprano Karen Myers, tenor David Kellett, bass Ben Bloomfield -- proved generally effective.

In many ways, the orchestra was the concert's star. Even allowing for the occasional slip in pitch or smudge in phrasing, the playing had considerable stylistic flair.

Whatever the shortcomings, the performance still communicated strongly the lasting power of this monumental Mass.
Posted by Tim Smith at 10:55 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: 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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