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May 9, 2011

Concert Artists of Baltimore will return to its namesake city for 2011-12

In time to celebrate its 25th season, 2011-2012, Concert Artists of Baltimore will put the Baltimore back into its name.

For about a decade or so now, this combination orchestra/chorus has been based at the acoustically splendid Gordon Center in Owings Mills. Next season, it will play three concerts at Peabody Conservatory's Friedberg Hall (Oct. 9, Jan. 14, March 24) and another at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric (May 5). Programming details haven't been announced.

The organization, founded and directed by conductor Edward Polochick, has not always been able to generate a strong turnout at the Gordon Center, despite the venue's easy access and acoustical advantage. It will be interesting to see the response to the idea of a downtown location next season.

As for the current Concert Artists season, it wrapped up Saturday night at the Gordon Center with another in its periodic series of musical portrait concerts, this one devoted to ... 

Rossini. A good-sized audience was on hand to hear some highly spirited music-making and a lot of commentary by Jonathan Palevsky of WBJC-FM. (I was probably in the minority, but I found the ratio of talk to music out of whack.)

The performance highlight was a terrific account of the "William Tell" Overture; it would been better placed at the end of the concert, rather than the start of the second half. Polochick lavished care on the cello-rich opening and the players, led by Evelyn Elsing, responded in glowing style. Each unfolding segment of the overture finale seemed to inspire the ensemble as the conductor kept the expressive engines firing.

I've heard a good deal of disciplined, dynamic work from this orchestra, but this may well have delivered the most visceral impact yet.

The chorus strutted its generally impressive stuff in an excerpt from the "Petite Messe Solennelle" and, especially, a couple of selections from "Sins of My Old Age."

Several chorus members stepped into the solo spotlight. Christine Kavanagh was quite the stand-out in the "Inflammatus est" from the "Stabat Mater." The soprano let loose with a bright, well-controlled tone and added full operatic weight to the phrasing. William Davenport offered an ardent "Ecco Ridente" from "The Barber of Seville."

Sarah Berger and Annabel Wherley meowed and purred amusingly through the "Cat Duet," with Polochick providing colorful accompaniment at the keyboard. Melissa Kornacki and Timothy Kjer had fun with a duet from "I'Italiana in Algeri," and they were joined by other likewise energetic colleagues for the Act 1 finale from that opera.

Posted by Tim Smith at 11:55 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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