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October 4, 2011

Concert Artists of Baltimore heading back downtown for 25th season

In the performing arts, each little milestone means a lot, from the inaugural season on. If you last five years, it's time to celebrate. Get to 10, and that's 20 in for-profit years. Hit 25, and you are making a really big statement.

Concert Artists of Baltimore, an organization that comprises a professional chorus and orchestra, opens its silver anniversary season on Sunday. That's newsworthy enough.

"I can't really take credit for it," says founding artistic director Edward Polochick. "I just try to persuade people to keep on going forward with it."

The organization remains true to its original purpose.

"Why not be able to explore the full range of a composer's work? All of the greats wrote vocal and instrumental music," Polochick says. "Having our own chorus gives the chance to do much more."

Adding interest to the 25th anniversary is a homecoming for the ensemble, which is heading back downtown, where it all started.

Concert Artists played its first season at Westminster Hall, then had a few years at Peabody (Polochick is a longtime faculty member at the conservatory), then several more at what is now called Notre Dame of Maryland University.

But for nearly a decade, the principal concerts have been held beyond the Beltway, at the acoustically splendid Gordon Center in Owings Mills. (Concert Artists has long kept one foot back in Baltimore with a chamber series at the Engineers Club in Mount Vernon.)

"I don't know why people were so reluctant to go to the Gordon Center," Polochick says. "But we lost a lot of ground going out there. It just didn't work for us."

So Concert Artists, which has a budget of around $400,000, returns to its geographic roots for its 25th season, opening Sunday in ...

Peabody's Friedberg Hall with something of a blockbuster program.

In addition to Britten's "Hymn to St. Cecilia" and Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony, there will be two keyboard-centric pieces with an impressive lineup of soloists: Leon Fleisher and Katherine Jacobson Fleisher in Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos; Ann Schein in Beethoven's Choral Fantasy.


The rest of the season looks enticing as well. A January concert offers works for string orchestra by Tchaikovsky and Arensky, as well as Brahms' Double Concerto with violinist JosÄ— Miguel Cueto, who has been the concertmaster with the ensemble from the beginning, and cellist Gita Ladd). In March, a program will explore the life and works, vocal and instrumental, of Mozart.

In May, Concert Artists moves a few blocks north to perform Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms" and Orff's "Carmina Burana" at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric Opera House, joined by the Peabody Concert Orchestra and Peabody Hopkins Chorus. (The orchestral component of Concert Artists will also play for a Lyric Opera Baltimore production this season.)

Maintaining a choral/orchestral force "hasn't been easy," Polochick says. "We've been through a lot of the trials and tribulations it takes to keep a group around this long. But we have been mostly in the black, and we have always paid our musicians on time."

Given the high profile of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, it is all the more remarkable that Concert Artists (and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, which launched a few years earlier) have managed to hang on. It will be interesting to see how things turn out with Concert Artists based firmly in downtown Baltimore.

One thing likely to remain the same is the highly energized music-making, a trait easily attributable to Polochick's unusually dynamic conducting. He has a way of not only drawing out the best in musicians, but also drawing listeners into the experience. It's a quality that could keep Concert Artists going for many more years.


Posted by Tim Smith at 8:37 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes


The Concert Artisits of Baltimoer deserve every plaudit that you can give it!! Concert sof the very highest caliber are the norm and have been the norm for 24 years and continue into the 25th year, this season.
One slight correction: In the January concert you listed "violin soloists, Jose Cueto". While Jose is an exceptional violinist, even he cannot play both solo parts. The other soloist is Gita Ladd, on cello. She recently performed this work at the Endless Mountain Music Festival this summer with Charles Rex of the New York Philharmonic. If you have not heard this piece of music before, you are in for a real treat as it is a masterpiece of the Romantic period.
BRAVO!!! to Ed Polochick and the Concert Artists of Baltimore!!!

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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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