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April 2, 2012

Out West with the BSO: The critical view from the Bay Area

Here's a sample of the critical reaction to the BSO's weekend concerts presented by Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley:


Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle: [The] weekend's most sustained achievement came during Friday's robust and pointed rendition of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony. This was also, not coincidentally, the best opportunity to assess the current state of this orchestra, which has not performed live in the Bay Area in at least a quarter of a century.

To judge from the Prokofiev, at least, things are ...

going well in Baltimore. The strings in particular sound ripe and well-blended, and the ensemble sound of the orchestra is even more arresting than that of any individual section.

And Alsop drew those strands together deftly into a performance of eloquence and specificity ... the orchestra caught the quicksilver wit of the second movement with wondrous clarity.

... the paired opening selections, Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" and Joan Tower's "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman," could have been a little more crisp and focused ...

[Jennifer Higdon's] Percussion Concerto sounded largely like a collection of effects in search of some strong musical ideas.

Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News: Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony also received a dynamic performance. Alsop introduced the first movement's weighty blocks of sound in a firm, well-paced rhythmic flow; the woodwinds were outstanding here, both in the principal theme for flutes and bassoon, and the second theme for flute and oboe. But there was fine playing throughout the orchestra. The violins voiced with warmth and definition, the dusky low strings sang, and the horns played with a crisp, assertive edge.

The conductor and her orchestra returned for a single encore: Borodin's vivacious "Polovtsian Dances."
Posted by Tim Smith at 10:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes, Marin Alsop

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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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