Baltimore may not have the busiest new music scene in the country, but there's remarkable life in it - especially tonight, when, within the space of a few blocks, two intriguing concerts will be presented.
The inaugural offering in the Mobtown Modern Music Series at the Contemporary Museum takes its cue from current events. As saxophonist Brian Sacawa, a co-curator of this venture, puts it: "We celebrate President Bush's final State of the Union address by presenting a political statement of our own."
That statement will come in the form of diverse works that deal, in one way or another, with political issues past and present. Come Out by Steve Reich, for example, is a response to a controversial murder trial that followed the 1964 riots in Harlem, N.Y. Coming Together by Frederic Rzewski incorporates letters from an inmate at the Attica state prison in New York during the 1971 riot there.
The program includes a 2005 piece by Erik Spangler (aka DJ Dubble8) called Iraq Mix; and Louis Andriessen's Workers Union, a 1975 score written "for any loud-sounding group of instruments."
Video imagery - including footage from last night's State of the Union address - will be a part of the concert. A toy piano, turntables and more traditional instruments will be employed. Sacawa, Spangler and pianist Michael Sheppard are among the performers.
The concert is at 8 tonight at the Contemporary Museum, 100 W. Centre St. Tickets are $5-$10. Call 410-783-5720 or go to mobtown modern.com or www.contempo rary.org.
Meanwhile, the Evolution Contemporary Music Series, founded a couple seasons ago by composer Judah Adashi, will offer a program called "Synchronisms," featuring music by such distinctive composers as David Lang, James MacMillan and Mario Davidovsky.
The premiere of a work by Peabody faculty member McGregor Boyle will also be a part of the concert, which features violinist Courtney Orlando (a member of the wonderfully out-there ensemble called Alarm Will Sound) and pianist Ken Osowski.
This performance is at 8 tonight (a pre-conversation with Boyle and the players starts an hour earlier) at An die Musik, 409 N. Charles St. Tickets $10-$15. Call 410-385-2638.
Also on the contemporary front, don't forget the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where modern music is practically the lingua franca. Among forthcoming events is a concert of works by Stuart Saunders Smith, including A Viet Nam Memorial - Transitions and Leaps. (This is obviously quite the week for music with a political undercurrent.)
The concert is at 8 p.m. Thursday at UMBC's Fine Arts Recital Hall, 1000 Hilltop Circle. Tickets are $3-$7. Call 410-752-8950 or go to missiontix.com.
New baroque series
An die Musik, regularly abuzz with activity in its upstairs concert room, is branching out to offer a series across the street at the Basilica of the Assumption, 409 N. Charles St. These programs, presented with the Basilica Historic Trust, will concentrate on baroque music.
The three-concert series begins Feb. 10 with a performance by viola da gamba artists Jerome Hantai and Kaori Uemura, with organist Freddy Eichelberger, in works from 17th-century England, Germany and France.
The series continues April 13 with music by Handel and Italian composers who influenced him. Vivaldi will be the focus of the final concert June 1. All performances are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10-$20. Call 410-385-2638.
A candlelit concert
The Chamber Music by Candlelight series, showcasing Baltimore Symphony Orchestra members, boasted an engaging, vividly played mix of repertoire Sunday night at Second Presbyterian Church.
Madeline Adkins and Jonathan Carney tore into the Sonata for Two Violins by eminent film composer Miklos Rozsa, bringing out its Bartok-lite folksy tunes and strong rhythms with great flair. Carney, violinist Rebecca Nichols, violist Karin Brown and cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn gave a strong account of Leos Janacek's remarkably concise, emotionally taut String Quartet No. 1 (inspired by Tolstoy's story "The Kreutzer Sonata").
Mountain Moor, a modest piece by guitarist/composer Stephen Funk Pearson with Celtic and bluegrass influences, was nicely delivered by violinist Ivan Stefanovic and guitarist Troy King.
The Clarinet Quintet by Brahms, a masterwork of structure and content, drew sensitive music-making from Edward Palanker (clarinet), Kenneth Goldstein and Stefanovic (violins), Brown (viola) and Dariusz Skoraczewski (cello).