The Buffalo Philharmonic has had plenty of celebratory achievements since the orchestra’s establishment in 1935. The BPO performed at the direction of decorated conductors like Doc Severinsen and Marvin Hamlisch. Its music danced across Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” in 1979, and the orchestra made its 24th appearance at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2012.
So with these moments considered, where will readying their instruments to back Foreigner icon Lou Gramm on a symphonic rendition of “Dirty White Boy” rank among the ensemble’s best moments?
Time will tell. But on Friday night in Kleinhans Music Hall, Gramm and the BPO joined for a rousing tour through late-’70s rockers, early-’80s backseat ballads and a handful of the vocalist’s solo career favorites during the latest performance in the orchestra’s popular BPO Rocks Series.
The Rochester-born Gramm has been dealing his brand of arena rock wail for nearly five decades. Whether opening for KISS as a teenager with Black Sheep or driving Jordache-clad women crazy with Foreigner, the frontman has earned his place among the most powerful vocalists in 97 Rock’s rotation. But after an uneven solo career, on-again, off-again stints with Foreigner and treatment for a brain tumor in 1997, it would be understandable to question whether the aging Gramm still has the juice to carry a live performance, let alone one with a four-piece band and symphony orchestra in tow.
See photo gallery.
A peculiar drama is unfolding at Kleinhans Music Hall, where the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is auditioning aspiring associate conductors.
On the one hand, the job could be seen as a stepping stone. Matthew Kraemer, who is leaving at the end of June, was appointed in 2009 to succeed Robert Franz, who is now music director of the Boise Philharmonic. Franz’s predecessor here in Buffalo was Ron Spigelman, now music director of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta.
At the same time, the position is very visible. Kraemer has shared the stage with celebrities including Wynonna Judd, the Four Tops and Chris Botti.
The associate conductor presides over classics concerts when JoAnn Falletta, the BPO’s music director, is out of town.
He or she also conducts children’s concerts. And until a pops conductor is appointed, pops concerts are also the associate conductor’s domain. Read more.
Sometimes it takes a while for a masterwork of the symphonic repertoire to be recognized. An example of just such a work was featured recently by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra when music director JoAnn Falletta led outstanding performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 that were unfortunately diminished only in the work’s final movement by a subpar performance by the guest soprano, who was suffering from bronchitis. Audiences today are mystified when reading about the initial negative critical reception of this symphony, which has since become the composer’s most beloved and frequently performed work.
BPO audiences will have no less than three opportunities this weekend to reconsider the merits of another masterpiece, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto, a work that suffered from similar critical misunderstanding after its premiere, with BPO concertmaster Michael Ludwig as the featured soloist on Friday at 10:30am, Saturday at 8pm, and a Sunday at 2:30pm. Read More.
There’s a new song coming from Kleinhans Music Hall, and it’s a song of suspense. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is scouting talent for three important, high-profile jobs.
Michael Ludwig, the concertmaster, is going to be leaving after this season, it was just announced. The concertmaster is the lead violinist and, in effect, the orchestra’s second-in-command next to the music director. Ludwig, who is the scheduled soloist on April 11 and April 12, is leaving to pursue a solo career.
“Michael’s given us eight fantastic years. He’s been wonderful,” said Music Director JoAnn Falletta. “But it’s been on his mind, to launch a solo career. It’s now or never, if he’s going to make a go of it. So many orchestras have invited him, with great success. He’s been focused on a solo career, and he also wants to do more teaching. It’s sad for us, but we’re happy for him. He’s going to get a chance to do what he really wants to do.”
Ludwig’s departure adds a fresh note of suspense to an interlude of transition for the BPO.
Recently, it was announced that Matthew Kraemer, the associate conductor, was leaving. Besides filling that position, the orchestra has just put out the word that it will also be seeking a pops conductor. The job of pops conductor has been vacant since it was held by the late Marvin Hamlisch. Kraemer recently had been doing both jobs. Read More.
Size does matter – and that’s especially the case in music. Just the sheer scale of some compositions can present challenges. Sometimes those challenges are not so much artistic as simply logistical. In the mid 19th century, Louis Moreau Gottschalk was famous for organising “monster” concerts of his own rambunctious scores through Central and South America and the Caribbean. “My orchestra consisted”, he wrote of one Havana event, “of six hundred and fifty performers, [in addition to] eighty-seven choristers, fifteen solo singers, fifty drums and eighty trumpets – that is to say, nearly nine hundred persons bellowing and blowing to see who could scream the loudest. The violins alone were seventy in number, counter-basso eleven, violoncellos eleven! You can judge of the effect…”
As Gottschalk clearly implies, he was composing scores that could be performed relatively easily by massed amateur and minimally rehearsed forces. As a result, it seems fair to assume that he would have been compelled to modify at least some of any higher artistic aspirations that he may have entertained. Thus, although Stokowski or perhaps even Toscanini – both noted explorers of forgotten byways of American musical history – might have been tempted, I’m not aware that it ever crossed the minds of the likes of Karajan, Abbado or Günter Wand to perform A night in the tropics, Á Montevideo or the Grande fantaisie triomphale sur l’hymne national brésilien.
When, however, Late-Romantic composers began to use sheer orchestral size as an entirely legitimate tool to help them express their personal Weltanschauung, the jumbo score – requiring, this time, accomplished performers rather than mere bellowers and blowers – acquired genuine artistic credibility. Il’ya Muromets is one of those great Late-Romantic orchestral leviathans. Like Strauss’s Alpine symphony or Mahler’s Symphony of a thousand, its epic scale and its practical requirements deter most orchestras from even attempting it. Whereas a quick trawl through YouTube will uncover plenty of orchestras from around the world perpetrating all sorts of entertainingly horrific massacres on familiar scores, I cannot locate a single one attempting even a portion of Il’ya.
A prolific composer, Moross wrote music for the concert hall, ballet, theater and film. His Symphony No. 1 turned out to be his only symphony as he abandoned several other symphonies-in-progress and integrated the musical materials into other works.
A prolific composer, Moross wrote music for the concert hall, ballet, theater and film. His Symphony No. 1 turned out to be his only symphony as he abandoned several other symphonies-in-progress and integrated the musical materials into other works. On October 18, 1943, the Seattle Symphony premiered the work conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. Read More.
The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is paying the pipa this weekend, and however much they are paying her, she is worth every penny.
Wu Man emerged from the wings Saturday night in a red and gold dress and raspberry-colored tights and stole the hearts of the listeners (a bigger crowd than you would think, considering the snowstorm that hit at the last minute). Her charm was topped only by her virtuosity on the pipa, a large traditional Chinese lute-like instrument.
The pipa sounds like a cross between the banjo and the balalaika. Concentrating beneath her black bangs, Wu Man flew up and down its strings with supreme agility. Each note was sharp and distinct, and there was such a variety of articulations – a chirp, a rattle, a sharp snap – that you had to smile. The instrument’s unfamiliarity was part of the fun. Sometimes the notes bend up at the end, lending a bittersweet tone. Read more.
Who is your “guitar hero?” Maybe classical guitarist Jason Vieaux or rock guitarist Erik Clapton. They themselves would be astounded by what Chinese born Pipa artist Wu Man can do with just ten fingers and four strings. You’ll be amazed too at this weekend’s BPO concerts. WNED’s Peter Hall found out more. Listen.