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June 2, 2011

Los Angeles Philharmonic's latest simulcast at cinemas focuses on Brahms

The remarkable trend of beaming live performances of opera, symphony, ballet and theater to movie houses shows no sign of abating. It seems that a lot of people find the experience not just satisfying, but addictive.

The leader of the pack is the Metropolitan Opera; that company's cinema simulcasts have taken off like crazy, spreading from country to country.

I wonder if symphonic events -- the least interesting visually, compared with the other art forms -- will develop an equally large, loyal audience over time. If anyone can develop a following, it may well be the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which has the super-photogenic, mega-watt personality of music director Gustavo Dudamel as an extra magnet.

The Philharmonic's three-concert cinema series this season, LA Phil Live, wraps up on Sunday with Dudamel conducting an ...

all-Brahms program -- the Double Concerto, with violinist Renaud Capuçon and cellist Gautier Capuçon (they've got star quality, too, in abundance); and Symphony No. 4. (The symphony is being recorded live and will be released on iTunes June 21.)

The live broadcast from Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles will be at 5 p.m. EST. John Lithgow will be the host. Movie houses participating in the Baltimore area: AMC Owings Mills 17, Cinemark Egyptian 24 at Arundel Mills, AMC Columbia Mall 14, Snowden Square in Columbia.

If you go, please let me know how you liked it. Just post your comments here.

Meanwhile, to get you in the mood for Sunday, here's a sample of Dudamel's beguiling way of conducting Brahms -- one of the Hungarian Dances (with the Gothenburg Symphony):


Posted by Tim Smith at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes


I attended the LA Phil's last live HD-cast this past weekend, which, if nothing else, had the best host of the 3 in John Lithgow. It may have finally occurred to the LA Phil's people to throw away the script and let Lithgow wing it, as he was by far the most relaxed and comfortable of the hosts for the HD-casts, although he still had to do the "Ask Gustavo" audience questions bit.

The Brahms Double Concerto with the Capucon brothers was nothing short of magnificent, the single best performance I've seen in the whole run of these LA Phil HD-casts, with Dudamel and the LA Phil supporting them splendidly. They also wowed the audience with their razzle-dazzle encore of the Handel Passacaglia, arranged for violin and cello. Brahms 4 went pretty well, the odd horn bobble aside, with Dudamel taking the first movement rather slowly, to my taste. All concerned had fun with the encore of a Brahms Hungarian Dance, as one might guess.

The point is very well taken about symphony concerts not being very cinema-genic, as my eyes did close briefly on occasion, though not my ears. In that sense, the middle HD-cast of the Shakespeare-Tchaikovsky event lent itself the best overall to the cinema format. During Brahms 4, it was a nice touch to spotlight the musicians during who were particularly interviewed for the intermission feature.

However, in terms of an audience, at the theater here (not in the BWI area, for the record), only about 10 people showed up. Guess some things just can't compete with baseball.

Hey, thanks very much for the wonderfully informative and incisive review. I'm not too surprised about the turnout. Classical concerts are bound to be a tough sell. (And apologies for the delay in getting your comments up. We've had internal issues on the Web site and the kinks are still not fully worked out.) 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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