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September 16, 2012

Dennis Kain, longtime principal timpanist in the Baltimore Symphony, has died

Dennis Kain, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's longtime principal timpanist, died Saturday after a bout with cancer. He was 73. UPDATE: A service for Mr. Kain will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

The news of Mr. Kain's death arrived  shortly after the BSO finished its successful gala concert with soprano Renee Fleming before a packed house at the Meyerhoff.

Mr. Kain's illness kept him from performing in the ensemble for the past few seasons, and his absence, musically and personally, was keenly felt. He joined the orchestra in September 1966.

In the years that I got to hear him play, Mr. Kain invariably impressed with his sure technique and ability to coax myriad dynamic nuances from the timpani -- not to mention his quiet charm and twinkling smile.

Covering the BSO's 2001 European visit with then-music director Yuri Temirkanov, I wrote that Mr. Kain was "a rock of Gibraltar on this tour" -- his steadiness and musicality came through in concert after concert.

I also recall the timpanist's stirring contributions to performances of Brahms' Symphony No. 1 with Temirkanov in 2004; Bruckner's Third with Mario Venzago conducting in 2009;  Nielsen's Fourth with Juanjo Mena in 2010; and many more.

I will pass along more information on arrangements as it becomes available.


Posted by Tim Smith at 5:10 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes


I am sad to hear of Dennis' passing. I had the good fortune to play in the BSO with Dennis for almost 30 years. He was a good friend and a truly great musician. The orchestra relied on Dennis as he was so solid a player and a leader. He will be dearly missed.

Sad and unexpected news, as I kept asking BSO members during the last seasons about Mr. Kain's health and they said - diplomatically, as it becomes obvious now - that it is getting better.

I said it before, Mr. Kain was my favorite BSO player.

May he rest in peace.

I will always remember Dennis Kains playing as being almost perfect; great sound, perfect pitch, and at the very highest artistic level. There were many great nights at the Lyric theatre watching him playing while I was at the Peabody. This is doubly sad knowing that my other favorite timpanist, Fred Begun (of the NSO) just also passed on within the same month. May they both rest in peace.

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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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