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December 7, 2012

Good weekend for contemporary music lovers in Balitmore

It's not all "Messiah" and "Nutcracker" around here these days. I spotted a few events featuring contemporary music that will provide considerable contrast to the preponderance of holiday fare.

The Baltimore-based Lunar Ensemble, a group founded in 2010 with strong Peabody Conservatory roots, will present a two-part "Pierrot Centenary Project" this weekend.

One of the biggest anniversaries observed this year was the centennial of Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire," a wild and brilliant work that had its first performance in Berlin on Oct. 16, 1912.

That doesn't mean the world was suddenly filled with commemorative performances of the piece -- today's music lovers aren't necessarily any more open to Schoenberg than his contemporaries were.

"Pierrot Lunaire" is a setting of 21 songs that are ...

delivered in "sprechgesang" -- "speech song" -- rather than in conventional melodic fashion. That vocal part remains a formidable challenge; the instrumental writing for an ensemble of woodwinds, strings and piano is no picnic, either. But it all adds up to an fascinating experience, a sort of futuristic cabaret for a future that has never arrived.

The Lunar Ensemble will perform "Pierrot Lunaire" at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Shriver Hall, conducted by Gemma New. The program also includes recent works that explore the same literary source material -- poems by Albert Giraud -- that inspired Schoenberg and that make use the same instrumentation.

A concert at 3:30 Saturday afternoon, also at Shriver, will continue the theme with another set a new works drawing on the Giraud poetry.

Composers represented in these concerts include Joshua Bornfield, Douglas Buchanan, Faye Chiao, Evan Combs, Sean Doyle, Natalie Draper, Lonnie Hevia and Joshua Pangilinan.

Sunday brings an all-Messiaen recital by pianist Matthew Odell, who did undergrad studies at Peabody now teaches at the Bard College Conservatory of Music and Juilliard.

Odell, a specialist in Messiaen's prismatic, complex, often deeply spiritual music, will focus on some of the lesser known repertoire, including the Préludes, the great composer's first published piano work.

Odel will also play the "Quatre études de rythme" and Messiaen's transcription of his orchestral work "Les offrandes oubliées," among other pieces.

The recital is at 2 p.m. Sunday at An die Musik.

PHOTO OF GEMMA NEW: Britt Olsen Ecker Photography


Posted by Tim Smith at 10:50 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes


Hello Tim,
Matthew Odell is returning to An die Musik Live on Sunday Feb 10 2013 to perform Elliott Carter's piano works.
The program will feature:
Carter: Sonata, Caténaires, Retrouvailles, Two Diversions, 90+

Barber: Sonata

This tribute to the 103-year-old Carter has long been in the works. I am looking forward to sharing a diverse cross-section of his repertoire, specifically contrasting his Sonata with that of Samuel Barber. Both sonatas were written in the years immediately following WWII, and for all their differences, they share some interesting similarities that I am eager to explore. ~ Matthew Odell

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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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