Buffalo Philharmonic to present world premiere work at Canisius College: “Vox Humana” addresses global refugee crisis

Buffalo Philharmonic to present world premiere work at Canisius College

“Vox Humana” addresses global refugee crisis

For Immediate Release
Contact:Kate Jenkins
Communications Coordinator
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

BUFFALO, NY – The newest work commissioned for a Buffalo Philharmonic musician will receive its world premiere on Nov. 15.

“Vox Humana” was written by Fredonia-based composer Rob Deemer for BPO English horn/oboe Anna Mattix. It also features a soprano part, which will be sung by Danielle Buonaiuto at the premiere. The piece is being recorded for a second volume of “Built For Buffalo,” featuring works commissioned by the BPO. The first volume of “Built For Buffalo” was released in late 2014 and has been immensely popular.

Deemer is head of composition at SUNY Fredonia, and also teaches at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp. His works have been performed by The President’s Own Marine Band, Chicago Composers Orchestra, and many more. Deemer recently gave a series of talks about the creation of this piece at the Central, Audubon and Orchard Park branches of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

Deemer drew inspiration from researching the history of the English horn. He learned of a related instrument invented at the close of the 1700s, the vox humana. The instrument faded from use a few decades later, but its name sparked Deemer’s imagination.

“I loved the name of this long-forgotten instrument for three reasons – its descriptiveness of the timbral character of the English horn, its suggestion that a human voice could be used in the work (which led to the inclusion of the soprano part), and its inference to a much broader concept of the voice of humanity writ large and the plight of the human condition,” Deemer said in the piece’s program notes.

Buonaiuto is a Canadian soprano with a deep commitment to new music. Art songs are her specialty, and she is planning to release an album of new art songs before the close of the year. She is also at work with composer James Young on a full-length collaboration. A video-and-music project with Tenth Intervention will premiere in France this month.

Husband-and-wife poets Brian Turner and Ilyse Kusnetz composed the heart-rending words to the piece, which describe the plight of refugees from Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and other war-torn areas of the globe. Deemer also makes musical reference to many of these areas in the piece, which took the shape of a threnody, or elegy. Kusnetz’s death shortly after the completion of the text makes the work even more poignant.

Mattix has been with the Buffalo Philharmonic since 2007. Prior to her tenure at the BPO, she played principal oboe with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and English horn with the Owensboro Philharmonic. She grew up in a musical family, and has degrees from Ithaca College and Yale University. She has been featured as soloist with the BPO several times. Her most recent featured performance came in 2014 when she performed Jean Sibelius’ “The Swan of Tuonela” on an all-Sibelius program, which was recorded for the BPO’s Beau Fleuve label.

JoAnn Falletta will conduct the concert, which takes place at the Montante Cultural Center on the Canisius College campus, and is part of the “Canisius and the BPO Connection” program. The concert also includes works by Mozart, Vivaldi, Faure and Eric Whitacre.

“It is an artistic milestone for the Buffalo Philharmonic when we have the opportunity to commission a work for one of our own musicians, and we are proud to feature Anna Mattix, English hornist and soprano Danielle Buonaiuto in Rob Deemer’s Vox Humana. The work is a haunting threnody about the tragic suffering of the refugees in our world today, poignantly expressed by Deemer in music of profound beauty and unforgettable poignancy,” Falletta said.


Tickets are $25 for the general public or $12 for students. To purchase, visit bpo.org or call (716) 888-2536.


As Buffalo’s cultural ambassador, the Grammy Award-winning Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the leadership of music director JoAnn Falletta presents more than 100 concerts each year. Since 1940, the orchestra’s home has been Kleinhans Music Hall, a National Historic Landmark with a reputation as one of the finest concert halls in the United States. During the tenure of JoAnn Falletta, the BPO has rekindled its history of radio broadcasts and recordings, including the release of 37 new recordings on the Naxos and Beau Fleuve labels. For more information about the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, visit www.bpo.org.


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