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May 21, 2012

Pianist Vanessa Perez makes Baltimore debut at An die Musik

Vanessa Perez, a young Venezuelan making waves in an ever-crowded sea of talented pianists, visited Baltimore Saturday afternoon to promote her new, all-Chopin Telarc recording.

She played the composer's 24 Preludes on a recital at An die Musik.

That intimate concert room has become a popular stopping-off spot for performing artists. On Monday night, violist Garth Knox and friends play from their new ECM recording there, before giving a CD-launch Tuesday at the hip Manhattan venue Le Poisson Rouge, an event touted in the Times and New Yorker. 

Back to the Perez recital. It proved to be a mixed bag. 

There was terrific technical virtuosity, as in the dash through the D major and E-flat Preludes. But there was some ...

smudgy, pushy playing, too, as in the B-flat minor and G minor (the latter, delivered at a supersonic speed that left the actual musical substance in the dust).

There was eloquent phrasing, as in the F-sharp minor and "Raindrop" Preludes, but articulation could also turn cold and methodical, as in the E minor. 

I admired the concentration and grit that Perez demonstrated as she moved those these two dozen amazing pieces, bringing out with a particularly effective edge the more startling ideas, such as the persistent dissonance in the A minor Prelude. I appreciated the pianist's determination to avoid anything sentimental or sticky.

Still, it would have been nice to hear a little more warmth of tone in places, a little more subtlety of articulation along the way -- qualities Perez does offer on the new CD, and which she revealed engagingly in the short pieces by Albeniz and Villa Lobos that bookended Saturday's recital.


Posted by Tim Smith at 1:46 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes


"I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead.." Sorry, Mr. Smith, but what do you know about technical virtuosity? In fact, what IS "technical virtuosity", other than a cliché plucked from the music critic's glossary of "phrases that will make me sound knowledgeable to the layman"? Do you know what technique is, indeed, or what the etymology of the word is? You seem to equate it with the gymnastics of speed and agility, rather than with "Art", as its root in the ancient Greek word "Teknikos" clearly demands. Why are artists, the ones up there DOING it, subjected to people like you, and your limited landscape of musical understanding? For, without experience in the field about which you have chosen to write with self-conferred expertise, you ARE limited. Very. How can you bear to write with such assumed authority about a process that has NEVER flowed through your own body or mind, as practiced by one who IS an expert in the field?

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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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