There is an art to putting together a symphony program. And at this weekend’s Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra concert, conducted by Music Director JoAnn Falletta, the components fit together beautifully.
Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” unfolds in a kind of nostalgic, sepia haze. The soprano sings about lost childhood, and her parents, a time and a place that are gone forever. It is lovely but it hurts, too, a lot like the play “Our Town.” You think of the years passing, people you have lost.
Then comes Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, and it lifts you up. It has its drama and its clashes. In the second movement, you look death right in the face. But then comes the gloriously ethereal slow movement, and from there you soar into the last movement, a vision of heaven, with its song about saints and music and dancing and all the food you can eat, cooked by St. Martha herself. It’s childlike and silly at times but in its naivete it is such a statement of faith. And you leave Kleinhans Music Hall smiling, thinking, so this is what life is all about. Read More.
For the next pair of Buffalo Philharmonic concerts this Saturday evening at 8pm and Sunday afternoon at 2:30pm, BPO music director JoAnn Falletta returns to the podium to conduct a program that local classical music lovers of the symphonic vocal repertoire will not want to miss. Heidi Grant Murphy will be the featured soprano in the final, angelically inspired movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. She will also sing Knoxville: Summer of 1915, American composer Samuel Barber’s exquisitely evocative invocation of the world of his own childhood, a world that has receded even further into the misty realms of the past since its 1947 debut. Barber set the text of the 1938 short prose poem by his exact contemporary, the future Pulitzer Prize winner James Agee, and like Mahler’s symphony the work manages to magically capture the world of a child. Read more.
Take away the parades. Blockade the crowds of green. Lock up the Guinness and put the lid on ethnically inaccurate servings of corned beef. If you want to know what really courses through the veins of anyone with Celtic lineage, turn away from these propagated accompaniments and listen to the music.
The tribal thump of the bodhrán. The tin whistle and pipes, the accordion, fiddles and flutes. Let their communion march through your chest, dizzy your head and tap your heel, and understand that this instrumental infusion is what fuels the Irish heartbeat.
Also understand that no collection of traditional musicians are better at facilitating this ancestral pulse than the Chieftains, who were joined by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on Friday to officially usher in the season’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend with a rousing two-hour session inside Kleinhans Music Hall.
Formed in Dublin in 1962 by founding member Paddy Moloney, the six-time Grammy winners have not only devised the soundtrack for family hooleys, step-dancing duels and pub dates, but have popularized Ireland’s traditional music on a worldwide scale. They’ve collaborated with expected partners like Sinead O’Connor and Van Morrison; backed the likes of Bon Iver and Ziggy Marley (for a tremendous version of his father’s “Redemption Song”); and paved the way for more frenetic pipe-wielding acts like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys. For over five decades, musicians of all types have flocked to the band’s rare blend of cycling rhythms and spiritual cohesion, hoping to bask in the glow of the Chieftains’ emerald-hued incandescence. Read More.
You have to appreciate jazz trumpet player Chris Botti, the way 100 years ago you would appreciate high-quality vaudeville.
He told the close-to-sellout crowd Saturday in Kleinhans Music Hall that he and his group play 300 shows a year. When you think about it, that gives them a tremendous amount of time to polish their shtick to a high gloss. It’s nonstop entertainment.
Botti blows into town every two or three years, so it is to his credit that he never gets boring. Saturday, he changed the mood constantly. As the first number, he and violinist Caroline Campbell took the spotlight for “Concerto de Aranjuez,” as featured by Miles Davis in “Sketches of Spain.” Both were extroverted and evocative. Botti, his toes inches from the edge of the stage, ended it on a long, dramatic, drawn-out note. Read More.
Until this disc, one might have said with all confidence that the finest single moment of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on record was, without question, Michael Tilson Thomas leading the BPO in the double record set of the complete works of Carl Ruggles.
I’d still argue that when it came to a historic and radical contribution to recorded repertoire and the world’s understanding of American music in particular, Thomas and the BPO’s complete works of Ruggles is unlikely to be equaled. Read more.
The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has set a new benchmark in terms of subscription sales — both in dollars and subscribers. Coming off of the buzz from last year’s Carnegie Hall appearance and this winter’s week-long tour of Florida, coupled with a season schedule loaded with musical highlights, BPO officials said 2013-2014 season ticket sales, currently, stand at $1.85 million, an increase of four percent from the $1.78 million it sold last season. Read more.
Saturday at Kleinhans Music Hall, the Beatles tribute “Classical Mystery Tour” could give you a funny feeling.
Could John Lennon still be alive?
Could the news of his death have been a weird mistake?
At least from the balcony, you could almost believe it. Jim Owen, who played Lennon – complete with the classic white suit – had him down so pat that it grew unnerving. His voice sounded like Lennon’s (no small feat, because Lennon had a fine voice). His musicianship was spot on and so was his timing. He was every bit as good as I remembered him being last time this Beatles tribute came to town a decade ago.
Part of the series called “BPO Rocks,” the “Classical Mystery Tour” sold out the house. The word went around that it was standing-room only.
No wonder, because a Beatles tribute band this good is a rare treat. Benjamin Chadwick was a different Paul than we had last time, and we traded up. His voice was closer to Paul’s. It got better as the night went on, until he was pretty much nailing those high, clear notes that Paul used to hit so beautifully. Bravo to Chadwick. It’s a tall order, to stand in for one of rock’s great voices. Read More
So went the whispers at Kleinhans Music Hall on Saturday night, regarding the guest conductor, Gunther Herbig. Herbig, a legend in his 80s, is making his debut with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. He is conducting an awesome, challenging symphony, Bruckner’s Eighth. And – so the rumors went – he was really putting the musicians through their paces.
That was only one of the things making this weekend’s concert so exciting.
The Bruckner Eighth is so massive and problematic that you do not hear it much. Josef Krips conducted it twice here, but there has been only one other performance, and it was more than 20 years ago. So it says something that Herbig, a compact and powerful figure, knows the mountainous symphony by heart and is conducting without a score.
Also, though the massive Bruckner often stands on its own, it is being paired this weekend with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, with the 23-year-old violinist Benjamin Beilman as soloist. Beilman, in a last-minute twist of fate, is playing the “Mary Portman” Guarneri owned by Buffalo philanthropists Clement and Karen Arrison. The priceless instrument was once owned by Fritz Kreisler. A few years ago, the Arrisons suggested to The News that they thought it was pleasantly haunted, that it had a way of determining the next violinist who would play it. Read More.
It must be early February because on Monday the Kravis Center sent us a lovely Valentine, in the form of clarinetist Ricardo Morales. The orchestra was the Buffalo Philharmonic with conductor JoAnn Falletta; the soloist was Morales. The program consisted of music by Jacques Ibert, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonin Dvořák.
Both the conductor and the soloist have impressive credentials. Falletta, who also is music director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, has guest conducted more than 100 orchestras in North America. Morales is principal clarinetist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and formerly principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
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