Buffalo Philharmonic: Diversions Large and Small, The Public, Douglas Levy

“I freely confess that I love tunes,” says Jack Gallagher, the composer of Diversions Overture, the opening work on this week’s Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra concerts, Saturday, February 7 at 8pm and Sunday, February 8 at 2:30pm in Kleinhans Music Hall. “My hope is to write music that performers will love to play and audiences may find engaging to hear,” adds Gallagher. “I find that when tunes are done in way that hopefully some of us find satisfying, they are successful at projecting a kind of affirmation or optimism that I feel cannot always be achieved without them.” In writing Diversions Overture (1986), the composer recycled a spirited section from the final movement of an earlier work for wind ensemble that he thought he could amplify for symphony orchestra. He added a slow, reflective introduction, the beginning of which is reprised at the work’s conclusion, creating a moment of breath-holding stillness. In between it is by turns contemplative and rousing, providing an effective introduction to the major works to follow. JoAnn Falletta has recorded this work for Naxos, conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

Two Romantic mainstays follow Gallagher’s curtain-raiser. In his youth Brahms made a reputation for himself as a touring pianist and writing for himself and for his friend, mentor and travelling partner, violinist Josef Joachim. Encourage by him and Robert Schumann, Brahms tried his hand at a piano concerto. He came up with the truly monumental work that will be brought to life by Natasha Paremski, who happens to be about the same age as Brahms was when his composed it. At its time, Brahms’s First Piano Concerto set the record for length at 49 minutes. Don’t be daunted: The concerto is a very well crafted work that is sure to reward the attentive listener, especially in the hands of Ms. Pamerski, who’s playing of Brahms, wrote critic Daniel Leeson, “is a memorable event, akin to being mystical…” Tchaikovsky’s popular Second Symphony bears the subtitle “Little Russian,” a reference to Ukraine, from which came the several folksongs that appear as the themes heard throughout the work. These tunes give the symphony a much different character than his other later symphonies. The work concludes with some of the brightest writing found anywhere in Tchaikovsky’s output. It is redolent with the aromas of borsch, pierogi, and horilka. For tickets call 885-5000.