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January 15, 2013

Multimedia weekend includes Concert Artists/James Westwater collaboration

Big screens in concert halls were all the rage over the weekend.

While the Baltimore Symphony was offering its audiences a multimedia experience with the 1938 Eisenstein/Prokofiev classic "Alexander Nevsky," Concert Artists of Baltimore incorporated contemporary "photochoreography" into a program of lush 20th century music.

For the opening and closing works of the Concert Artists event Saturday night at the Gordon Center, the orchestra was flanked by a stage-length, three-panel panoramic screen where expertly composed photographs by James Westwater, a pioneer in bringing orchestral and photographic products together, were projected in tight sync with the music-making.

Barber's famous "Adagio for Strings" was matched with ...

shots from the world of the Anasazi-Puebloan peoples, creating a reflection on humanity, nature and fundamental spirituality. Lush rain forests, ever under threat, became the focus during Vaughan Williams' exquisite "The Lark Ascending" (no birds in sight).

The technical level of the visuals was admirable (a mussed lighting cue at the end of the Barber piece caused minor damage), and the atmospheric effect in the darkened hall held rewards.

Edward Polochick led a sensitively shaped account of the Adagio; a few frayed edges aside, the strings responded smoothly.

Ably supported by conductor and ensemble, Concertmaster Jose Miguel Cueto delivered the subtle violin solo in the "Lark" with remarkably poise, tonal sweetness and tender phrasing, finishing off stage to create a kind of voice-calling-in-the-wilderness effect.

The non-visual portion of the concert included a warmhearted account of Copland's "Appalachian Spring" that ebbed and flowed tellingly under Polochick's careful, ever-expressive guidance. The woodwinds soloists did particularly shining work.

Baritone James Dobson, a longtime member of the Concert Artists chorus, brought a fine sense of style, if uneven vocal resources, to a selection of Copland's "Old American Songs." The lengthy program also had room for a colorful suite from Respighi's "Ancient Airs and Dances."


Posted by Tim Smith at 6:06 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes

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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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