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February 21, 2012

Lyrical afternoon with Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Ana Vidovic

The Baltimore Chamber Orchestra has only three concerts listed this season, each scheduled a few months apart. It would be perfectly understandable if things sounded a little, well, unpolished, when the ensemble takes the stage, but that's not the case. If anything, the BCO sounds better each time I hear it.

The group boasts some fine musicians, a mix of free-lancers and Baltimore Symphony veterans (including Madeline Adkins, who clearly has much to offer as BCO concertmaster), so I realize that a certain level of technical quality is to be expected.

Still, it was remarkable to hear such impressive work during Sunday afternoon's performance at Goucher College, as if the orchestra had been giving concerts every week since opening the season last October.

Music director Markand Thakar, who evident knows how to maximize rehearsal time, had the players producing a consistently well-balanced sound.

Thakar knows how Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" goes, and he had it going very well at the start of the program. Tempos were spacious, dynamic contrasts beautifully attended to, phrases sensitively molded.

The strings summoned a velvety tone throughout, while woodwinds and brass likewise offered subtlety and warmth.

It was much the same at the end of the evening, in ...

Schubert's Symphony No. 5. Thakar got the music percolating nicely, and the musicians again paid keen attention to details of color and contrast.

In between came Rodrigo's exquisitely atmospheric Concierto de Aranjuez, with Ana Vidovic as soloist. The Peabody-trained guitarist demonstrated much more than effortless technique. Her phrasing, seemingly spontaneous and filled with delicate touches, communicated richly.

Thakar provided smooth support from the podium, and the orchestra purred nicely, with many a telling solo effort within the ensemble.

The famous Adagio, which enjoyed a whole new life years ago as soundtrack to a Chrysler TV ad featuring Ricardo Montalban and the ad man-created "rich Corinthian leather" (see below), emerged with particular care and tonal beauty; Leslie Starr's English horn solo here matched Vidovic's playing for elegance.

Although the audience did not exactly demand an encore from the guitarist, she returned to the stage to deliver one anyway -- a most welcome one, too. She played Tárrega's ever-haunting "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" with admirable finesse and a gently glowing tone.




Posted by Tim Smith at 5:45 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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