Category: BPO in the News

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.

Mozart concerto brings to town two dynamic soloists, Mary Kunz Goldman, Buffalo News

Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Demarre McGill could be a rebellious teenager. But he was not your average rebellious teenager.

“I used to have a saying, when I was 14 or 15 – I was obsessed with music and obsessed with the flute and with achieving and attaining all of my goals. I felt so connected to Mozart as a teenager that if I got into an argument with my parents, I would tell them, ‘You NEVER take my Mozart away!’ ” He laughed, remembering. “Whatever state I needed to be in to perform Mozart, I needed that state. I didn’t want anything to happen to that.”

Luckily his parents never did take Mozart away. McGill went on to become the principal flutist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. His younger brother, as a boy, was inspired by hearing him practicing, and is now the principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic.

Their father, a Chicago firefighter originally from Mississippi, has written a book called “A Father’s Triumphant Story: Raising Successful African-American Men In These Troubled Times.” He promises that the book reveals 25 secrets for success. Presumably one of them is Mozart.

McGill will be giving back to the great master at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, when he joins the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and harp virtuoso Yolanda Kondonassis, in Mozart’s Concerto in C For Flute and Harp. It’s an all-Mozart concert, in honor of the composer’s birthday (which is actually Tuesday). Conducted by David Alan Miller, the program begins with the airy Divertimento in D, K. 136, and ends with the tender, joyous “Prague” Symphony. The concerto is its centerpiece.

It has become traditional to kick off the BPO’s spring season by celebrating Mozart’s birthday. It’s also a reminder that classical music belongs to the young.

Mozart was 35 when he died, and just 22 when he wrote his flute and harp concerto. It was commissioned by a duke he met in Paris. The duke played flute and the duke’s daughter played harp. The story goes that Mozart never got paid for the piece. But today it is a masterpiece everyone loves.

Kondonassis, the harpist, was reminded of that once in a memorable way. After recording the piece in England with the London Symphony, she treated herself to a massage to soothe herself after the physical and emotional exertion.

“I was lying on the table, and just as I was starting to unclench my fists, what comes on the sound system but the Mozart flute and harp concerto,” she laughed on the phone. “In the spa!”

‘It’s mind-boggling’

Opportunities to hear the flute and harp concerto live do not arise every day. The BPO’s Classics series featured the piece only once before, in 1988.

Kondonassis is in awe of the music.

“Mozart was just the definition of brilliance. There was a gift there that we may never see again,” she reflected. “He wasn’t a rich man. By all accounts, personally, he did not have his life together. But God, the volume of just transcendent brilliance that he brought to the world. It’s mind-boggling.”

Kondonassis, who grew up in Oklahoma, is known for playing music from all over the map. Her brand-new CD, “Together,” has her performing modern music with guitarist Jason Vieaux, a native of Depew. But the Mozart concerto is a longtime love.

“Mozart was rather infatuated with one of his very young students,” she says. “Back in that day a music teacher would teach everything. You wouldn’t go to a piano teacher to learn piano and a harp teacher to learn harp. She played the harp, and he’d work with her. And he was inspired by her, I believe. The duke’s daughter was a very prodigious young harpist. Mozart wrote this piece with her in mind. It’s a very romantic piece. The second movement is like a love letter.”

Mozart never got paid for the duke’s commission, and Kondonassis has a theory why that was. “Probably like most fathers of teenage girls, when he got wind of the slightly more-than-casual interest in his daughter,” she laughs.

The music suggests how accomplished the duke’s daughter must have been on the harp.

“It’s one of the more difficult concertos for the harp,” Kondonassis says. “It’s quite technical. I adore it, it’s fun. And I always tell my own students, the secret to not being paralyzed by the difficulty of anything you play is to allow yourself to be completely entertained. It’s like any other challenging mental or physical path. The secret to playing this well is to be in the task, not to think ‘This is very technical. Oh, my goodness, I have a little cold. I don’t think I can play these 100 notes in 20 seconds.’ ” She laughs.

Mozart made dazzling use of the harp’s strengths, writing showers of notes. Kondonassis’ husband, Michael Sachs, is the principal trumpet player of the Cleveland Orchestra, and they get a kick out of comparing scores.

“He looks at a page of my music, and a page of his, and says, thank God I’m not paid by the note. A typical page of the Mozart concerto has hundreds of notes. It’s a wonderful kind of carpet of notes. It’s just fun to play. That’s where you need to put your focus, on the fun. To hear the physical and musical joy.”

The flute in the closet

Kondonassis is sure that the joy of the concerto is enough to enchant anyone.

“If you’re not someone who listens to classical music on a regular basis, this is a great place to start,” she said. “You don’t have to do any work to listen to it. You can be really sit back and let the music do the talking. A lot of people think you have to think hard to appreciate classical music, that to be worth listening to, it has to be this big intellectual experience. The great thing is, you can listen to it the same as you listen to any other kind of music. Let it wash over you and take your mind where it wants it to go. This piece will take your mind to great places.”

The music has taken McGill to great places.

He was a boy when he encountered the flute. “Before I was born, when my parents were dating, they would have parties, jam sessions,” he explained. “My father would play a wooden African flute. At one point my mother bought him a used silver-plated flute. He toyed with it a little bit. It was collecting dust in the closet. I found it when I was 6 or 7. I said, ‘What is this, and what do I do with it?’ He said, ‘Blow across it as you blow across a Coke bottle.’

“By the time I was 14, I gave it my all.”

Now, playing the Mozart concerto reminds him of the joy he takes in his art. “I absolutely love playing in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and I love that I can play the Mozart flute and harp concerto,” he said.

Like Kondonassis, McGill has spent years with the piece.

“There’s an intimacy that’s formed year after year,” he said. “I’m still constantly growing. There is a sense that this feels better than it did the last time I played it. I appreciate this level of comfort that didn’t exist when I last played it, the previous June. It feels better. I feel I’m able to do more with it.

“The line between being myself and being Mozart – being the music – it becomes more and more blurred.”

As flutist, McGill plays tune of success to students, Jane Kwiatkowski, Buffalo News

Professional flutist Demarre McGill told his personal success story Thursday afternoon to more than 100 middle-school music students at Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. The silence among the young audience members seated in the school’s Black Box Theater was deafening – no small feat for middle-school adolescents.

The visit by the flutist who will be performing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra this weekend was the latest initiative of a role model program presented by Communities of Giving Legacy Initiative. The program, “Success Looks Like Me,” provides low-income youth of color with opportunities to interact with successful adults.

McGill grew up on the south side of Chicago and is principal flutist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. His younger brother, Anthony McGill, is principal clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Before performing with the BPO this weekend, Demarre McGill spoke in front of several local middle school students. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

McGill described their parents as former art teachers who were “creative people.”

“My father played an African wooden flute. My uncle played bongos,” McGill told his young audience. “My mother would sing. My mother eventually bought my father a used silver-plated flute and some instruction booklets.”

McGill was 7 when he found the flute collecting dust in his parents’ closet. As a youth, he recalled moments of passion when he found music he loved and he couldn’t stop practicing it.

At age 13, he attended summer camp at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. It was at Interlochen where he recalled a rival named Ira who won out as the camp orchestra’s first chair flute.

“I was so mad, so frustrated so I walked back to the cabins where we lived, and as I was walking I took my flute out of the case and slammed the case down. I started to practice as I never practiced before,” McGill said. “I continued practicing until the end of summer when I went back to Chicago.”

After McGill finished speaking, the music students peppered him with questions.

Demarre McGill will perform Mozart in Buffalo. (Darin Fong)

Matthew Wilson, an aspiring musician, asked where to look for opportunities.

“Start with yourself,” answered McGill. “Be the best musician you can be, and you can start working on that today. Surround yourself with good people, and you’ll find even more opportunities.”

Ayana Bardon wanted to know if McGill played any other instruments.

“When I was 14 in high school, I wanted to play the saxophone, and I did for several months,” McGill said. “There’s nothing wrong with playing a variety of instruments. I guess I just thought the flute was my passion.”

“Success Looks Like Me” was introduced in spring 2012 with Ruben Santiago-Hudson, a Lackawanna native, writer and Tony Award-winning actor. In November 2014, international violinist Tai Murray participated in the program. Murray now lives in Berlin.

Through the program, local and national leaders of color interact with youth through in-person and online mentoring sessions, panel and group discussions, visits to college campuses and workplace tours. The goal is to inspire youth to believe that they can achieve greatness, according to Jennifer J. Parker, founder of the Black Capital Network and an advocate for the Communities of Giving Legacy Initiative.

McGill received his bachelor’s degree in Flute Performance from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He received his master’s degree from Juilliard School in New York City. He has performed on Public Broadcasting Service’s “Live From Lincoln Center,” A&E’s “The Gifted Ones” and NBC’s “Today” and “Nightly News.” As a teenager, he appeared on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

McGill is the winner of the Avery Fisher Career Grant administered by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Artists do not apply directly for the award and have no idea they are even under consideration. The musicians, who must be U.S. citizens or permanent U.S. residents, receive these awards based on excellence alone.

McGill will perform as part of the BPO’s annual Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart birthday celebration at Kleinhans Music Hall. He will be joined by harpist Yolanda Kondonassis for two performances over the weekend. The first will be at 8 p.m. Saturday; the second, at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

He also will lead a master class from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Friday in the Mary Seaton Room at Kleinhans.

Mozart concert is a rare treat, Mary Kunz Goldman, Buffalo News

A big crowd turned out Saturday for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, never mind the warnings about snow and ice. And why not? The concert was all Mozart.

This weekend brings the annual Mozart birthday celebration, and it is an event. As much as everyone loves Mozart, his music isn’t heard that much in the concert hall. Maybe it’s because it calls for a pared down orchestra, for the sake of authenticity. Plus, no one makes headlines by playing Mozart. There were thousands of performances before any of us were born, and there will be thousands more after we are gone.

So Mozart is a rare treat – hence everyone’s defiance of the weather warnings. This concert features music rarely heard live.

The opening Divertimento in D for strings, K. 136, is a delight that heretofore I have heard only through recordings. The BPO has never played it before, which doesn’t surprise me. Mozart was 16 when he wrote this three-movement piece, for entertainment purposes, and it is perfection, brimming with scampering melodies and light-as-air trills. It looks ahead to such other sublime confections as “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.”

The BPO’s string players put their heart into the performance. They have the right conductor for the job in David Alan Miller, the music director of the Albany Symphony. Miller clearly loves this music, and drew crisp playing from the performers. The Divertimento diverted. The playing was tight and the effect was charming.

The centerpiece of the concert was the Flute and Harp Concerto, music you hear frequently on recording but rarely live. The last time the BPO played it was in 1988, with Carol Wincenc on flute. Our soloists this weekend are flutist Demarre McGill and the famed harpist Yolanda Kondonassis.

It is a little strange to hear this music at Kleinhans. It is so much quieter than what we are used to. The configuration, too, is novel. Kondonassis’ harp, an imposing instrument with an Art Deco look, dominated the stage. Seated next to it in a long black and white gown, she looked patrician and lovely, the picture of a soloist.

Her playing was resonant and confident. So was McGill’s. It seems clear that McGill has the music in him. He danced as he played, his body moving this way and that. There was something courtly about him, something graceful and very affecting. Watching him with Kondonassis, you got the feeling you would never see this sight again. I wished I could freeze the two of them.

Both of them knew the concerto inside out. As Mozart wished, they both made what they did look easy. McGill had beautiful control. As one concertgoer pointed out, he seemed to go forever without having to take a breath. Kondonassis handled that huge harp with no apparent effort. Her arms and hands glided over the strings, arpeggios pouring out as if by their own accord.

Interviewed earlier by The News, both of them independently talked of their love for the slow movement, a romantic Andantino. It was the highlight, with delicate melody lines and surges of passion. The cadenzas they played together were also interesting. A double cadenza can be dicey, but they played them with a feel of freedom that suggested improvisation. The audience loved what they did.

This non-grandstanding music does not invite a standing ovation, but during the prolonged applause, a number of people did stand up and cheer.

The “Prague” Symphony, No. 38, showed how much Miller, the conductor, cares for this music.

He gave an impromptu spoken introduction, explaining the symphony’s place in history, and then he waited a few moments before giving the downbeat. Such an introduction was not only informative, it gave the music space and importance. Too often Mozart’s music, even his late symphonies, are treated as bonbons or as appetizers for something else. It was great to see this marvelous music put in the spotlight where it belongs.

The performance had guts and glory. The timpani, booming from the back of the Kleinhans stage, gave an ominous feel to the slow introduction. I thought the introduction should have been slower, but even at Miller’s tempo, it had weight. Throughout the piece, Miller took all the repeats, so you get to savor the music. The orchestra played the piece with passion and what looked like enjoyment. I do not think they get to play this music often.

I think the slow movement, like the introduction, should have been slower. The tender, caressing music seems to call for it. Again, though, there was no faulting the expression or the articulation. The last movement, taken at a good clip that I loved, thrilled with its dynamic contrasts.

This is a symphony of extremes. It charges forward like a train, then it lifts up like a balloon. There is a phrase in the last movement that, rising and falling and rising again, can make you feel weightless. It is a real experience to hear live, especially when it is performed with such heart as it is this weekend.

The concert repeats Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

BPO Goes All Mozart, Jan Jezioro, Artvoice

The musicians of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra have a long tradition of celebrating the January 27 birthday anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In years past, BPO musicians held an annual birthday concert of Mozart’s chamber music at the Lancaster Opera House. In recent years, the celebration has been moved to Kleinhans, where guest conductor David Alan Miller will lead a pair of concerts this Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2:30pm. Miller, conductor of the Albany Symphony Orchestra since 1992, received a Grammy Award in January 2014 for his Naxos recording of John Corigliano’s “Conjurer” featuring the noted British percussionist Evelyn Glennie as soloist, with the Albany Symphony.

Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and flutist Demarre McGill will be the guest soloists in the program’s centerpiece, the Concerto for Flute and Harp and Orchestra in C Major, K. 299, a work last programmed by the BPO in 1988, in a performance that featured Buffalo’s own Carol Wincenc as the flutist.

Yolanda Kondonassis, the first lady of the harp in the United States, has enjoyed an enviable career during the last few decades, first winning the most prestigious harp competitions worldwide, and then going on to perform with the highest profile orchestras both in this country and in Europe. She has also been one of the most prolific sponsors of new music for her instrument, recording solo works by composers such as John Williams, Lowell Liebermann, John Cage, Stephen Paulus, and Norman Dello Joio. Kondonassis has recently formed a duo with Buffalo native Jason Vieaux, her colleague at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Flutist Demarre McGill was named principal flutist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in September 2013, after holding the same position with the Seattle Orchestra. Winner of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, McGill has performed in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.2 on a PBS ‘Live From Lincoln Center’ broadcast with the Chamber Music Society.

Mozart composed his Concerto for Flute and Harp and Orchestra in April of 1788 for Adrien-Louis de Bonnières, Duc de Guînes, a French nobleman who had served as French ambassador, first in Berlin and later in London, from 1770 to 1776 when French aid to the American Revolution resulted in a diplomatic breach. Mozart spent six months in Paris during the spring and summer of 1788, after he had left Salzburg, his birthplace, in search of any other employment rather than continue working for the autocratic and dictatorial Count Hieronymus von Colloredo, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Unable to secure an official appointment while in Paris, Mozart was left scrambling for sources of income, a very different situation than during his first visit as a seven-year old prodigy, fifteen years earlier, when he was the darling of court circles.

He was employed by de Guînes to give his daughter lessons in music composition. The daughter, Marie-Louise-Philippine, proved to be a poor student of composition, but an excellent harpist, as Mozart described her playing as “magnifique” in a letter to his father. Shades of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, her father was also a very accomplished flute player, with Mozart describing his flute playing as “unforgettable.” Unfortunately, the Duc was also a cheapskate, as Mozart noted in a later letter of July 31 to his father: “The Duc de Guînes tried to pay me for only one lesson when I’d taught two, this plus the fact that he has had my Concerto for Flute and Harp for four months and still hasn’t paid me!” There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that when Mozart eventually went to collect his commission, the Duc was not available, but that his housekeeper gave the composer half of the fees due. Greatly compounding Mozart’s distress during his Paris sojourn was the death of Anna Maria, his beloved mother, with whom he was particularly close, on July 3.

However, as is so often the case with Mozart, the concerto for flute and harp is a charming work, abounding in melodies and untouched by the personal problems that were troubling him. The flute and the harp are presented equally as virtuoso soloists in the lively opening movement Allegro, with the flute sometimes engaging in a dialogue with the strings. According to Alfred Einstein, one of the best Mozart biographers, the lyrical Andantino is “decorative and sensuous but not lacking in deeper emotions.” The final happy, bubbling Rondo ends like the two previous movements with both a cadenza and a coda, demonstrating why this work has continued to prove irresistible to both flute players and harpists, along, of course with classical music audiences.

The program also includes the ever popular Symphony No.38 in D major, K.504 “Prague” and the String Divertimento K. 136, a very early work by the composer that might have actually begun its life as a string quartet.

Information: www.bpo.org

BPO finances are looking strong, Mary Kunz Goldman, Buffalo News

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s latest financial numbers are music to the ears.

Once again, the orchestra achieved a balanced budget for its 2013-14 season. In announcing the news, the orchestra cited its steadily climbing ticket sales, which brought in $3.3 million in revenue last season. Ticket sales have climbed 17 percent since 2009. The orchestra also rejoices in its endowment, which now tops $32 million.

Artistically, the BPO is maintaining a high profile. The last season saw the release of four CDs. Among them is the critically acclaimed recording on the Naxos label of Reinhold Gliere’s Symphony No. 3, the rarely performed and challenging work that the BPO performed at Spring for Music at Carnegie Hall in 2013.

A recently released report to the community included a lot of points of pride. The Philharmonic pointed to the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, which makes news in the musical world; and a successful Florida tour. A concert at Princeton University saw the BPO conquering a new frontier. A number of appealing new works the orchestra performed also made a splash. Perhaps the most colorful was Miguel del Aguila’s Concierto en Tango. The BPO’s world premier performance featured Principal Cellist Roman Mekinulov.

The orchestra estimated that 200,000 people attended a BPO concert in the 2013-14 season. The BPO’s education programs reached 40,000 students, and more than 35,000 people attended the BPO’s summer concerts, including performances at the Erie County Fair and at Canalside.

The numbers add to the recent good news radiating from Kleinhans Music Hall. The hall is getting a makeover that will reduce the number of seats by 400, but allow for improvements, such as a wheelchair section on the first floor and more leg room in the first 10 rows. The renovations should be complete in time for the opening of the 2015-’16 season.

“Week in and week out, our musicians have performed with commitment, excellence and dedication to deliver a world-class musical experience to Western New York audiences,” said BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta in a statement announcing the figures. “The community’s support inspires us to continue to achieve great things.”

“We are thankful to our donors and our concertgoers for another great year,” said BPO Executive Director Daniel Hart. “We look forward to building on our success from a position of strength, and continuing to serve the Western New York community which has responded so wholeheartedly to our endeavors.”

Kleinhans to have new, but 400 fewer, seats this season, Buffalo News

Kleinhans Music Hall enters its 75th anniversary on a high note.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s home is replacing all its seats this summer in time for the start of the 2015-2016 season, The balcony will be made safer by installing hand rails and widening aisles, while a wheelchair seating area will be provided on the main floor.

In doing so, the curvy brick and stone concert hall, designed by Eliel Saarinen and his son Eero, will have about 400 fewer seats.

The hall has 2,839 seats – 35 more than Carnegie Hall. When the new seating is installed, it will have about 2,400 seats, which should provide more comfort in what officials say will be a more intimate environment.

Reducing the number of seats in the hall will enhance the viewing experience while better matching seating capacity with demand, officials said .

“There is a lot of wasted space, because a concert might be maybe three-quarters or two-thirds filled,” said Christopher N. Brown, board chair of Kleinhans Management Music Hall. “So rather than having a bunch of empty seats, we will have a full house or pretty close to a full house with wider seats, and longer leg room in the first 10 rows.”

The announcement comes as the BPO’s financial picture continues to brighten. Ticket sales for the 2013-2014 season were $3.3 million, continuing a steady increase over the past several years.

The orchestra’s endowment has more than quadrupled since 2004 to $32 million.

“You hear so much in the national press how orchestras are in trouble, audiences are shrinking and ticket sales are in decline, but we have had good growth going back 10 years now, and the last five-year period recovering from the recession has been good for us,” said Daniel Hart, BPO executive director.

Other recent improvements to the hall include a new HVAC system, expansion of the women’s downstairs lavatory, repairs to the hall’s woodwork, updates to the electrical system, improvements to the sound system and installation of cost-efficient lighting.

The renovations will help keep the concert venue in tip-top shape for years to come, Brown said. “For Western New Yorkers, the building has been here for three or four generations and is truly iconic. It is a National Historic Landmark, and we often take that for granted, but that is such a special designation, and we’re so lucky to have this building,” Brown said.

The John R. Oishei Foundation, Margaret L. Wendt Foundation and M&T Bank provided the major funding to replace the seats, Hart said. The City of Buffalo, which owns the building. and the State of New York paid for the bulk of many other renovations.

The music continues to flourish under the baton of JoAnn Falletta, he added.

“JoAnn’s tenure is going to be marked by many things – the personnel in the orchestra, the recordings, the broadcasts we’re doing – but probably most importantly, making exciting programs for our local audiences,” Hart said.

Hart said he doubted the reduction in seats would have a negative effect on programming.

“From a marketing standpoint, it may have people thinking a little more about when to buy their tickets. It will probably enhance demand a little bit, which I think will be a good thing for the orchestra overall,” Hart said.

The new seats will have blue upholstery, wooden seatbacks, metal frames and placement along the same metal rail system, much like the 47-year-old seats being replaced.

“The seats have been showing wear and tear for some time. We will pay close attention to Eliel and Eero Saarinen’s original seat specification, and use the same materials to the extent possible,” said Ted Lownie, Kleinhans’ architectural consultant.

Lownie drew on conversations with Leo Beranek, who has written about Kleinhans’ famed acoustics, in choosing the new seats.

A gala is planned Oct. 12, the day the music hall opened, to celebrate the anniversary.

New seating brings added comfort, less capacity to Kleinhans, Business First

The last time Kleinhans Music Hall had new seats installed, the Beatles had yet to record “Hey Jude” and Lyndon Johnson was still president.

Yes, it has been that long.

This summer, the Buffalo landmark will be getting new seats — the latest phase of a series of renovations that have taken place during the past few years. The $1 million project, which will see Kleinhans seating capacity drop from 2,800 seats to 2,400 seats — a 14.2 percent drop, is being financed through grants obtained by the John R. Oishei Foundation, M&T Bank Foundation and Margaret L. Wendt Foundation.

Replacing the well-worn seats has always been a top priority for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Kleinhans Management Music Hall board of trustees. Securing the funding made it a reality.

“In reality, 2,400 seats is probably the right number for Kleinhans,” said Chris Brown, Kleinhans Management Music Hall directors chairman. “It makes it that much more intimate.”

The seats will not only be new, but they will be slightly wider — by, on average, one inch — and also have more leg room. Once all are installed this summer, Kleinhans will have 1,300 seats on its main floor, down from the 1,500 it has currently has and 1,100 in the balcony, a decrease of 200 seats.

All of the seats have been tested to match Kleinhans’ renowned acoustics, said architect Ted Lownie, a Hamilton Houston Lownie partner and founding member. Lownie has served as the BPO’s consultant on the Kleinhans renovations.

“You just can’t turn your back on a building like this,” Lownie said.

The seats are close to same specs Kleinhans architects that the father and son tandem of Eliel and Eero Saarinen had envisioned.

Some of Lownie’s recommendations were less sexy and headline grabbing, like improving the building’s heating and air conditioning system. Others were more visible, such as bringing Kleinhans’ signature reflecting pool back.

In all, Lownie identified $4 million worth of renovations Kleinhans needed. Half have been completed. Once the seats are installed, the project will be 75 percent complete.

“Every building needs constant attention, especially one as busy as this one,” Lownie said.

Daniel Hart, BPO executive director, said on average Kleinhans is used for more than 200 events each year and sees more than 175,000 people walk through its doors. That includes those bound of BPO concerts to high school graduations and weddings along with numerous corporate events.

“Twenty four hundred seats is still a lot of seats,” Hart said.

Kleinhans opened in 1940 and this summer will mark only the third time new, blue cushioned seats are being installed. The last time was 1968.

Concert hall seats generally have a 25-year life span.

“These are 47 years old,” Brown said. “This is all about making sure people are comfortable at Kleinhans.”

Future renovations include additional sound system upgrades, repairs to the building’s wood finishes and the creation of a mini-BPO museum.

JoAnn Falletta conducts Bartók’s Kossuth, Two Portraits and Suite No.1, Classicalsource.com, reviewed by Colin Anderson

If you are unfamiliar with Bartók’s Suite No.1, then a pleasant surprise – an uplifting treat – awaits you. Composed in his early-twenties this five-movement work abounds in rollicking rhythms, generous lyricism and all is garnished with an artist’s palette of colour. Admirers of Korngold’s music, and Karl Goldmark’s Rustic Wedding Symphony, needn’t hesitate. Listening blind, Bartók’s name may not even be considered, although there are some giveaways, but on its own terms here is an exuberant, tuneful and heartfelt score to take much pleasure from. JoAnn Falletta and her Buffalo Philharmonic give an ideally vigorous, lush and affectionate account of this delightful and bracing music that can dance with earthy vigour and wear a big heart on its sleeve, the young composer inventive and imaginative, teeming with ideas, and on the cusp of becoming the inimitable and great composer we know him to be.

Bartók’s Opus 5 Portraits are more characteristic, the first movement comparable to its counterpart in Violin Concerto No.1, not performed during the composer’s lifetime and only published much later. Although that work is now given the occasional airings, the composer’s act of rescue of the opening ‘Ideal’ has long given us some of his most eloquent and deeply-felt music, a touching depiction of violinist Stefi Geyer, whom he was very much in love with. Michael Ludwig gives an intense and sinewy reading of the solo part, sensitive and poised regarding Bartók’s tear-jerking longing. The second Portrait – without solo violin and newly composed – is a rambunctious and pithy affair, intriguingly unpredictable, something of an exorcism to counter a cherished if lost relationship.

Kossuth, after statesman Lajos of that name, led Hungary in its 1848 claim for liberty from the Austrian Habsburg empire but was defeated following intervention from Russia. Bartók’s 20-minute Symphonic Poem, like Suite No.1, may not be typical of him, but it is an evocative, exciting and dramatic diary of events, from intense brooding to final desolation via urgent battle cries. JoAnn Falletta and her troops do justice to this intense score, one festooned with nationalistic motifs. As throughout, the vivid recording presents some impressive music and music-making.

Christmas comes early with mother-daughter reunion, Buffalo News

The one song Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra musicians did not play at their annual Swingin’ Holiday Pops concert Saturday night was “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

They didn’t have to.

Sgt. Katie Bauman, who had not seen her family since she went to Afghanistan a year ago, stole the show when she surprised her mother onstage at Kleinhans Music Hall during the concert.

Her family was swept away, and more than a few in the nearly sold-out audience wiped away tears when Bauman hugged her mother, Mary Beth Bauman-Moyer. Attending the Holiday Pops concert is a tradition for the family, one Bauman had not been able to take part in for a number of years.

She started planning her surprise in the fall, talking to Susan Schwartz, the BPO’s director of marketing and communications, from Afghanistan. WBEN came through with tickets for the family members, who were told they won a contest.

Listeners had hardly settled into their seats, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra played the final notes of “A Christmas Overture,” when guest conductor Ron Spigelman turned to the audience and said he had a special package that had come a very long way, and he asked Mary Beth Bauman-Moyer to come to the stage. He explained that attending Holiday Pops is a longtime tradition for her and her family.

“The last few years, something has been missing,” he said.

“Have you got my baby? Have you got my baby?” a shaking Bauman-Moyer asked Schwartz as she escorted her to the stage.

“Where is the package?” Spigelman asked, looking around.

That’s when Army Sgt. Katie Bauman walked onstage, hugging her mother as the audience and musicians broke out in thunderous applause.

“Oh my goodness, it’s my daughter! I love you, I miss you,” Bauman-Moyer told her.

Bauman, 27, a graduate of Sweet Home Central High School with an athletic training degree from Canisius College, was raised in the Town of Tonawanda and Amherst. A flight medic, she returned from Afghanistan several weeks ago and now is stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Bauman thanked the BPO, and her family.

“I want to thank my family who supported me through the whole deployment,” she said.

“But mostly, keep in mind, there is still a war going on,” she said. “There are thousands of soldiers outside the United States. Keep them in your prayers and thoughts.”

“This is such a unique moment,” Spigelman said. “I have no idea how to segue into “Christmas on Broadway.”

Bauman and her mother walked to their seats, where her stepfather and four brothers hugged her, brother Pat climbing over his seat to get to her. They sat down, and Bauman-Moyer lay her head on her daughter’s shoulder, her Christmas wish come true.

Bauman began dreaming of her Christmas homecoming months ago. The visit was plotted meticulously to be a surprise to the family, with the exception of one family member, a sister-in-law, who assisted in the plans.

The soldier’s insistence on secrecy was such that she declined all pre-concert publicity and pleaded with the Philharmonic not even to release her name beforehand, lest details get out and the surprise be spoiled.

“It is about family. It’s not about presents, it’s not about anything like that, especially with deployment,” she said during intermission. “It’s being with those who care for you day in an day out.”

Bauman was in seventh grade when terrorists attacked the United States in 2001.

“It resonated with me and it stuck with me,” she said, adding she waited until she earned her college degree to enlist.

“One thing I realized in Afghanistan, if it’s not on the front pages, people forget about it. So just remember them,” she urged. “I have a lot of friends still in Afghanistan, some people are in Iraq. There are people all over the world.”

It was an emotional night for Bauman and her family, and almost more difficult than being in Afghanistan.

“Onstage was nerve-wracking,” she said. “Deployment was a lot less stressful than walking out on that stage, I can tell you that.”