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April 2, 2012

A few notes on Bach Concert Series's 'St. Matthew Passion'

I stopped by Christ Lutheran Church Sunday afternoon for Part II of the "St. Matthew Passion" in a presentation by the Bach Concert Series. It was good to be in the presence again of Bach's profound music, even if there were some drawbacks to the realization.

Conductor T. Herbert Dimmock did not always keep his forces on track. But he ensured that many of the score's most dramatic moments, such as the shocking cry of "Barabas" from the choir, registered strongly, and he shaped the chorales quite sensitively.

The chorus needed greater clarity of articulation in the busiest contrapuntal passages, and could have used more actual tenors and firmer basses. At their best, though, the choristers came through with enough sonic and expressive weight.

Half the soloists ...


lacked consistency of technique and/or tone. The others, though, proved rewarding. Baritone Benjamin Park's warm sound and eloquent phrasing made "Mache dich, mein Herze, rein" a highpoint. Likewise, Monica Reinagel's richly communicative singing made the alto solos glow tellingly. Soprano Jennifer Young's sweet tone proved a boon.

The orchestra occasionally turned slippery, but also contributed mightily to the experience overall, with particularly elegant work from the concertmaster and wind soloists.

Posted by Tim Smith at 2:30 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes


Correction, please. You have their name wrong. Their name is "Bach Concert Series." The Bach Society folded ages ago, and BCS is a totally different group. Will you fix that in your article?

One of my many Freudian slips (you would think I wouldn't do that so soon after getting it right in another blog post). I have made the correction. Thanks for letting me know. TS

Day II was probably tough on them after all that evergy of Part I the night before. If you thought "Baraba" was exciting, In part I, during a lovely duet between the soprano and alto, the choir's interjection of Lasst ihn . . . haltet . . . bindet nichts" had people like me who didn't know it was coming, jumping out of the pews each time, with that sound rocking the rafters.

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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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