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The American Chamber players and commentator Martin Goldsmith serve up a spicy musical meal. 

The Taste of Music

Miles Hoffman, founder and artistic director of The American Chamber Players, suggests that, "Designing a good program is a little like designing a good meal." And he should know. His seven-member group offers endless possibilities, and like a chef with a huge array of spices on hand, Hoffman has a world of music to choose from. On Feb. 9, The American Chamber Players come to Richmond for the first time in their 15 years of performing. "It's only this season that things have started to click [in Richmond]" says Hoffman, who will also offer a lecture entitled "Coming to Terms with Beethoven" in conjunction with the Richmond Symphony's Beethoven Festival in April. Hoffman's players will offer a gorgeous, well-rounded program of Milhaud, Brahms, Schumann and Fauré, but what makes this program spicier than the average musical meal is the inclusion of Martin Goldsmith, senior commentator for National Public Radio. Goldsmith was the host of NPR's Peabody Award-winning "Performance Today" for 10 years. Even if his name is not instantly recognizable, his voice is. Lodged somewhere around a baritone (not quite James Earl Jones, but deliciously mellifluous nonetheless), Goldsmith's voice is an instrument that requires your attention. "We enjoy touring with Martin quite a bit," Hoffman says. "It makes the concert not just a good concert, but an event with a capital E." Hoffman says Goldsmith's commentary is "by no means a technical introduction." The audiences will not be required to endure explanations of thematic development and harmonic permutations. Goldsmith is more likely to read from a composer's letters, to unveil aspects of a composer's life of which most people, even professional musicians, are unaware. As fascinated as the audience often is, Hoffman adds that the America Chamber Players themselves are usually huddled backstage, eager to hear Goldsmith's gems of musical history. "His commentaries are very, very informative," Hoffman says, which, coming from him, is no small praise. Hoffman is himself an NPR commentator and author of "The NPR Classical Music Companion: Terms and Concepts from A to Z." "Basically I talk about the pieces of music," Goldsmith says, likening his contribution to "three-dimensional program notes." Goldsmith left "Performance Today" last October for the best of personal reasons. He recently was married, and he has been hard at work on a biographical account of his own parents' experiences performing in an all-Jewish orchestra while living under Hitler's fascist regime. "The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Love and Music in Nazi Germany" should make its appearance in September. Goldsmith's interests and concerns are wide-ranging, which make his observations about music relevant and accessible. "I have fairly catholic tastes in music," he notes, emphasizing the lowercase c. "I like to paraphrase Louis Armstrong; there's only two kinds of music — good music and bad music." And sometimes, as with the American Chamber Players, there's very, very good music,
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