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April 27, 2012

BSO welcomes Jun Markl, Arabella Steinbacher for all-German program

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is concentrating this week on meat-and-potatoes German fare from the the first half of the 19th century.

That might have led to a ho-hum meal, but two German guest artists for the program have ensured plenty of interest.

Make that two multicultural German guest artists.

Conductor Jun Markl, a BSO podium favorite, and violinist Arabella Steinbacher, making her debut with the orchestra, have an interesting heritage in common -- each was born in Munich (a few decades apart) to a German father and a Japanese mother.

Markl's talents have been well-documented here. He has an easy rapport with the BSO, and it showed again Thursday night at Strathmore (the concert is repeated Friday and Saturday at the Meyerhoff).

With a flair for rhythmic spark and lyrical warmth, the conductor set ...

Weber's "Euryanthe" Overture spinning at the start of the evening. Inner details of the orchestration emerged neatly; dynamic contrasts also received keen attention. The ensemble responded with typical poise and color.

To close, there was Schumann's "Rhenish" Symphony. Although not really programmatic, the score is so rich in atmosphere that it's easy to hear the five movements as a set of postcards that capture fond memories.

Markl drew out those evocative qualities, maintaining a keen sense of propulsion without slighting sensitivity.

The orchestra's playing had a few rough edges, but again proved expressive, especially articulating the moods of the last two movements, from awed and reflective to unbuttoned and frenetic.

At the center of the evening came Beethoven's Violin Concerto, a towering work at once youthful and mature, profound and playful. Steinbacher, using a deliciously dark-toned Strad from 1716, proved up to the challenges.

She revealed considerable technical elan, but not the faceless shine that some young fiddlers display. She even sacrificed purity of sound here and there when digging into a phrase.

The spacious opening movement found Steinbacher making many a poetic point; she also offered subtle work in the hushed, expansive Larghetto. The finale's high spirits inspired a burst of engaging personality.

Markl backed the violinist solidly and coaxed vibrant work from the BSO throughout the concerto.

Steinbacher clearly won over the Strathmore crowd in a big way. The hearty, sustained ovation generated an encore, Kreisler's Recitative and Scherzo, delivered with a combination of charm and effortless bravura.


Posted by Tim Smith at 1:49 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes


My wife and I saw last night's concert at the BSO in the city, and Arabella Steinbacher was fantastic on the violin.

The sound of that Stradivarius was breathtaking, and she totally knocked the Beethoven piece out of the park.

The audience applauded for at least 10 minutes it felt like afterwards.

We sat orchestra center second row back, and I felt like I was up there playing it with her.

The Schumann Symphony was equally brilliant and well performed.

Can't wait for the Beethovens 9th later this summer.

Thanks for your thoughtful review.

And thanks for the report from Meyerhoff. Glad to know it was another fine performance. TIM

Fantastic artistry Saturday night. Ms Steinbacher is truly agreat artist, among the very best in the world. The Sat. night audience had the pleasure of hearing an encore, but do not know what it was.

The encore Miss Steinbacher performed on Saturday evening was from the Ysa├┐e Sonata No. 2 for solo violin, first movement.

Raymond Kreuger
Associate Orchestra Librarian
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

My apologies for my earlier post - I got my evenings mixed up.
On Saturday Miss Steinbacher's encore was the same as it was Thursday, Kreisler's Recitative and Scherzo.

Raymond Kreuger
Associate Orchestra Librarian
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

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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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