The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is celebrating the release of a CD called “Built For Buffalo.” The CD lets Buffalonians revisit several memorable performances from the past couple of years, of music commissioned by the orchestra and featuring individual soloists.
The nostalgic spirit of tango filled “Concierto en Tango,” written by Miguel del Aguila for Roman Mekinulov, the principal cellist. Mekinulov gave this sparkling, fun-loving piece its premiere in June, with Aguila on piano, and the performance was followed by one of the loudest rounds of applause heard at Kleinhans Music Hall in recent memory.
Former concertmaster Michael Ludwig, who returns this weekend to play the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the BPO, was the soloist in Daron Hagen’s “Songbook” for solo violin, strings, harp and percussion. Besides Ludwig, “Songbook” features BPO harpist Suzanne Thomas, BPO percussionists Mark Hodges and Dinesh Joseph, and the BPO strings.
Finally, the CD includes the first triple trombone concerto ever written by a noted composer. Eric Ewazen wrote the concerto, which premiered in November 2012 in a performance in Kleinhans Music Hall featuring BPO trombonists Jonathan Lombardo, Timothy Smith and Jeffrey Dee.
“Our commissioning project is a tribute to five of our musicians, and clearly reflects their particular interests and musicianship,” BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta said, announcing the release. Falletta conducted all three pieces. “The orchestra shares with its home city a proud spirit of both innovation and respect for tradition. With pieces that borrow from the folk and classical traditions to create something new, this disc captures perfectly the spirit of Buffalo.”
The CD will be available online and at the BPO box office starting Tuesday. Music fans who just can’t wait will be able to snap it up this weekend in Kleinhans. The disc will be for sale after the concerts, and patrons may have their CDs signed by Falletta and the soloists on hand.
Released on the orchestra’s private Beau Fleuve label, the disc could prove influential far beyond our town. The chances are good that all three pieces will find a place in the repertoire.
The BPO’s trombonists have played Ewazen’s concerto at the 2013 Eastern Trombone Workshop in Virginia and with the Interlochen World Youth Orchestra in Interlochen, Mich. Another performance is planned for China in January 2015. News Classical Music Critic Emeritus Herman Trotter, reviewing the premiere, praised the “glorious sonority” of three trombones. Describing the piece’s liveliness, he wrote: “The composer describes the Finale as ‘rip-roaring.’ He’s right.”
The Del Aguila concerto’s wide appeal showed in the tumultuous reception that greeted its premiere. It allowed Mekinulov to explore the limits of what his instrument could do, and at the same time, it kept the audience engaged and entertained. The Buffalo News praised the music’s unique creativity: “The piece grew kind of addictive, with its rhythm and zing.”
Hagen’s concerto also calls to people. The composer filled this new piece with the folk songs and spirituals that his wife sings to their young son. They include Irish melodies, folk hymns and Appalachian tunes in the piece. The piece was actually dreamed up in Buffalo, one evening when Hagen was sitting around in a restaurant here with Falletta, Ludwig and other friends.
“This is a piece, a humble internal piece,” Hagen told The News. “This is a domestic piece about family life, intersection of family life and history.” Hagen missed the BPO’s premiere because his wife was giving birth to their second son.
Thought obviously went into this programming, as the BPO strives to find pieces to perform that are new but will not turn listeners away. The disc shows why the BPO was honored earlier this year with an ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. The award praised qualities the BPO emphasizes – “programs that challenge the audience, build the repertoire, and increase interest in the music of our time.”