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Favorites & Friends: A Celebration of 20 Years of JoAnn Falletta
Join the celebration as our lady of honor, Maestro JoAnn Falletta, takes the podium for her official 20th season with the BPO. JoAnn has handpicked a sparkling repertoire, including Saint-Saëns’ Capriccio and Rondo played by violin virtuoso Tianwa Yang, whom JoAnn conducted in her United States premiere performance; Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide; Liszt’s powerfully foreboding Totentanz, with JoAnn’s friend William Wolfram on piano, finishing with Dvořák’s bucolic and idyllic Symphony No. 8.
JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Tianwa Yang, violin
William Wolfram, piano
ROSSINI Overture to Semiramide
SAINT-SAËNS Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for Violin and Orchestra
LISZT Totentanz for Piano and Orchestra
DVORAK Symphony No. 8
For more information on parking and shuttle options, click here.
Parking in the Kleinhans Music Hall lot will be $8.
Pre & Post-Concert Activities
7:00-7:30PM Pre-concert lecture in the Main Hall, given by JoAnn Falletta
7:00-7:40PM The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus will perform in the Mary Seaton Room under the direction of Adam Luebke
7:40PM All ticket holders are invited to a pre-concert toast in the Mary Seaton Room
Featured soloists Tianwa Yang and William Wolfram will hold a CD signing in the lobby at intermission and post-concert.
Join us for an Opening Night Dinner & Post-Concert Soiree
Create a magical evening to remember. Enjoy a very special pre-concert dinner and post-concert soiree package, and raise a glass in honor of Maestro JoAnn Falletta’s 20th season with the BPO. Dinner will be served at Henry’s at Kleinhans Music Hall in advance of the season opening concert, Favorites & Friends: A Celebration of 20 Years, performance at 8PM. A post-concert soiree with Maestro Falletta and BPO musicians in the Mary Seaton Room will follow the evening’s performance. Click here for more info.
About Tianwa Yang
Tianwa Yang is a winner of the prestigious ECHO Klassik Instrumentalist of the Year (Violin) 2015 for her Naxos recording Ysaÿe’s 6 Sonatas for Solo Violin, the Best Up-and-Coming Artist 2014, and the Annual Prize of the German Record Critics 2014 for her Naxos recordings of the Mendelssohn Violin Concertos and Complete Music for Violin by Sarasate. The young violinist, a resident of Germany, performs with major orchestras including Detroit, Seattle, Baltimore, Nashville, Sydney, Kansas City, Virginia, Pacific, Vancouver, Toledo, SWR-Baden Baden-Freiburg, WDR-Cologne, MDR-Leipzig, HR Radio Frankfurt, Malmö, Singapore and New Zealand Symphonies; the London, Dresden, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Buffalo, BBC, Deutsche Radio, Erfurt, Warsaw and Royal Liverpool Philharmonics; and Orchestre National d’Île de France. International concert and recital engagements take her to the Ravinia, Virginia Arts, Schwetzinger, Rheingau Music, Heidelberger Frühling, and Lucerne Festivals, London’s Wigmore Hall, Paris’ Salle Pleyel, New York’s Rose Theater, Lincoln Center, and Leipzig’s Gewandhaus.
As a critically acclaimed recording artist for Naxos, Ms. Yang’ most recent releases include Brahms’ Violin Concerto and Double Concerto with DSO Berlin, Antoni Witt and cellist, Gabriel Schwabe; and two highly acclaimed volumes of the Complete Music for Violin and Orchestra by Wolfgang Rihm. Considered the world’s best interpreter of the music of Sarasate since Heifetz, her complete music for Violin and Orchestra and for Violin and Piano by Sarasate are now released as two complete box sets by Naxos.
Raised in the Chinese capital city of Bejing, Ms. Yang began studying violin at the age of four. Demonstrating unquestionable ability, Ms. Yang won six competitions as a young child. At the age of ten she was accepted to study at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing as a student of Lin Yaoji. Within one year, Hong Kong media described the young artist as “A Pride of China.” Ms. Yang recorded the 24 Paganini Caprices at the age of thirteen, making her the youngest artist to release the works. In 2003 Ms. Yang was awarded a scholarship by the German Academic Exchange Service to study chamber music in Germany, marking the beginning of her European career.
Ms. Yang has won several awards during her career including the Volkswagen Foundation prize “Star of Tomorrow” by Seiji Ozawa and the 2006 “Prix Montblanc,” and has received multiple accolades, awards, prizes and top album placings for her extensive discography.
She is Professor of Violin at the University of the Arts, Bern, Switzerland, and performs on a Guarneri del Gesu (1730) on kind loan from the Rin Collection in Singapore.
About William Wolfram
American pianist William Wolfram was a silver medalist at both the William Kapell and the Naumburg International Piano Competitions, and a bronze medalist at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow.
Wolfram has appeared with many of the greatest orchestras of the world and has developed a special reputation as the rare concerto soloist who is also equally versatile and adept as a recitalist, accompanist and chamber musician. In all of these genres, he is highly sought after for his special focus on the music of Franz Liszt and Beethoven and is a special champion for the music of modernist 20th century American composers.
His concerto debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony under the baton of Leonard Slatkin was the first in a long succession of appearances and career relationships with numerous American conductors and orchestras. He has also appeared with the San Francisco, Saint Louis, Indianapolis, Seattle and New Jersey symphonies, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington D.C.), the Baltimore Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Nashville Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, the Utah Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, the Edmonton Symphony, the Columbus Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, and the Grand Teton and San Luis Obispo Mozart festival orchestras, among many others. He enjoys regular and ongoing close associations with the Dallas Symphony, the Milwaukee Symphony, the Phoenix Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra as well as the musicians of the New York Philharmonic for chamber concerts in the United States.
Internationally recognized conductors with whom he has worked include Osmo Vanska, Andrew Litton, Jerzy Semkow, Mark Wigglesworth, Jeffrey Tate, Vladimir Spivakov, Michael Christie, Gerard Schwarz, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Jeffrey Kahane, James Judd, Roberto Minczuk, Stefan Sanderling, JoAnn Falletta, James Paul, Carlos Kalmar, Hans Vonk, Joseph Silverstein, Jens Nygaard, Yan Pascal Tortelier and Vasily Petrenko. Abroad, Wolfram has appeared with the BBC Symphony Orchestra of London, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the RTE Symphony Orchestra of Ireland (Dublin), the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Bergen Philharmonic (Norway), the Beethovenhalle Orchestra Bonn, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and many others.
As educator and teacher, Mr. Wolfram is a long-standing member of the piano faculty of the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina, and a regular featured guest at the Colorado College Music Festival in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He also teaches a performance class and a chamber music class at the acclaimed Manhattan School of Music. In print and other media Wolfram was the focus of a full chapter in Joseph Horowitz’s book, The Ivory Trade: Music and the Business of Music at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. On television, he was a featured pianist in the documentary of the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition. A graduate of the Juilliard School, William Wolfram resides in New York City with his wife and two daughters and is a Yamaha artist.
by Edward Yadzinski
born: 29 February 1792, Pesaro; died: 13 November 1868, Passy, France
Overture to Semiramide
First Classics performance: February 14, 1954, conducted by Milton Katims; most recent performance: March 7, 2010, conducted by JoAnn Falletta; duration 12 minutes
Gioacchino Rossini is best known for his operas The Barber of Seville, Cinderella, Semiramide, and William Tell among others. His catalog is also a trove of diverse masterworks: masses, oratorios, cantatas, hundreds of small incidental pieces for piano, and volumes of chamber music. But for all his diversity, ‘Maestro Crescendo’ (as he was known to the musicians of the time) is best celebrated in the concert hall for the overtures to his operas. Every one of them is tuneful and flamboyant, and each achieves an orchestral tour de force. Completed in 1823, Semiramide is a two-act opera seria (dramatic opera, often tragic), and was regarded as a masterpiece from the very first curtain. The libretto by Gaetano Rossi is based on Voltaire’s Semiramis of 1748.
Notwithstanding the opera’s wide appeal, a charming mix of reviews came from high places: Stendhal admired the work but thought it was tunefully and harmonically too German, while Wagner himself (always self-conscious of Rossini’s achievement) thought the opera abounded in ordinary Italian conventions! A synopsis of the story reveals a plot entangled with politics, revenge and familial conflict. The action takes place in the ancient city of Babylon, famous for its Hanging Gardens and Asian magnificence, yet notorious for its indulgent sensuality.
The storyline in sum: Semiramide, the Queen of Babylon, has murdered her husband Nimo, the King, with the help of her lover Assur, who now desires the throne. But Nimo’s tomb opens to reveal a prophesy that at midnight the King’s Ghost will tell the names of his killers to Arsace, an enemy commander, who shall himself become King. With dramatic irony Semiramide learns that Arsace is really her son, but who is now in danger because the jealous Assur intends to ambush him at the tomb. Semiramide arrives just in time to place herself between the two. As if decreed by Fate, she is killed by a stroke from her son whose target had been the heart of Assur.
The libretto and its setting in Babylon provided an ideal opportunity for Rossini’s florid style. At first the overture conveys a pastoral ambiance, heard in the long lyric for a quartet of French horns, derived from a choral setting in the opera. From that point the overture unfolds with bright and glowing phrases which belie what is to follow. Rossini deftly inflects the mood along the way with chords and progressions which only hint at the serious storyline at hand. The sheer melody that poured so easily from the composer’s pen is everywhere apparent, articulated by exciting figures from the strings, colorful replicas in the woodwinds, and rhythmic flair in the brass and percussion. It is all delivered with Con Brio virtuosity. And yes, along the way, we are treated to a few of Rossini’s signature crescendos. Bravissimo..!
born: 9 October 1835, Paris; died: 16 December 1921, Algiers, Algeria
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op.28
First Classics performance: November 20, 1984, conducted by Raymond Harvey, with violinist Stacy Phelps; most recent performance: September 20, 2003, conducted by JoAnn Falletta, with violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; duration 10 minutes
The music of French composer Camille Saint-Saëns was colored by his lifelong penchant for other disciplines. He was one of the great polymaths of the Romantic era: apart from his voluminous musical output he wrote scholarly papers on astronomy, archaeology, mathematics, philosophy, and acoustics. Just for good measure, all of that was topped-off with a breezy fluency in several languages, a polyglot par excellence. As one might guess, the signs of genius showed up very early. For example, Saint-Saëns composed his first piece at the age of 3 years and debuted as a pianist at Salle Pleyel in Paris at the age of 10, when, after many curtain calls the diminutive child offered to play any one of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas from memory! No wonder Paris buzzed with comparisons to the early years of Mozart. Saint-Saëns later became the organist at the Church of the Madeleine, as well as a respected teacher and champion of the music of Wagner, Liszt, Chabrier, Debussy, Dukas, Fauré and Ravel. Hector Berlioz once noted “Camille knows everything but lacks inexperience.”
Saint-Saëns’ catalog reveals examples of every kind of serious music, from opera to song cycles, symphonies, chamber music of every variety, et cetera, as well as a handsome collection of specialty pieces like the celebrated Carnival of the Animals, the dashing Danse Macabre and virtuoso genre pieces like the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso for violin and orchestra. The latter was composed in 1863 with a dedication to Pablo de Sarasate.
For violin buffs the term ‘genre piece’ holds special meaning, if only because so many of them appeared during the height of the Romantic Zeitgeist of the 19th century. Oddly, most of the works of this type were scored by great performers who desired to spice up their touring repertoire with flashy works of their own. Among these the list begins with Paganini, followed by names like Lalo, Wieniawski, Sarasate and Ysaye. Strangely, except for one stellar exception – the peerless Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) – the phenomenon of the great violinist/composer came to an end in the early 20th century.
Saint-Saëns’ mini-masterpiece begins with a breathless, haunting lyric from the soloist over gentle A minor chords in the strings. For all its simplicity the tune is imbued as if with Byronic reverie – something gorgeous and exciting is at hand. Sure enough – right on cue – a determined and bright Rondo tune is offered over a strumming symphonic background with an operatic feel. In a moment begin the flaring pyrotechnics – but without losing our balance. The spirit flows summa cum laude clear to a ravishing close in A major. One cannot help but note the ‘capriccioso’ title and the similarity in gypsy esprit with Paganini’s most famous Caprice No.24, another tour de force in A minor.
born: 22 October 1811, Raiding; died: 31 July 1886, Bayreuth, Germany
Totentanz (Dance of Death)
First Classics performance: April 25, 1976, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas with pianist Andre Watts; most recent performance: March 3, 2013, conducted by JoAnn Falletta, with pianist Cecile Licad; duration 16 minutes
Beyond his devotion to music, Liszt was passionate about literature, sculpture, and painting. Totentanz was inspired by the frescoes of Orcagna (Andrea di Cione, 1308-1368) at Campo Santo di Pisa, as well as the etchings of the German master Hans Holbein (1497-1543). Dedicated to the great piano virtuoso and conductor Hans von Bülow, the piece was originally scored for solo piano in 1839, then orchestrated by Liszt in 1855. (On a local note, the great von Bülow played two solo recitals here in Buffalo in 1876.)
For reference, the term ‘totentanz’ is a metaphor intended to convey the ecumenical and downright democratic nature of the ‘endgame’ which awaits everyone here on terra firma. For the main theme Liszt quotes the ancient requiem chant Dies Irae (Day of Wrath), used by many (many..!) composers from the Renaissance through our modern day. For his part, Liszt is both reverent and bravely mocking.
When asked by a friend to explain the passing scenes represented by the variations in the score, Liszt remarked:
“I must decline to relate the program or story behind Totentanz because the piece is one of those works for which the content must never be told to the public.”
To this, Hungarian composer Béla Bartók later replied:
“Totentanz is simply a set of variations on the Gregorian chant “Dies Irae” – ‘Day of Wrath.’ It is astonishingly harsh, from beginning to end. But what do we find in the middle section? – A variation hardly eight bars long, of Italianate emotionalism. Here Liszt obviously intended to relieve the overwhelming austerity and darkness with a ray of hope. The work as a whole always has a profound effect upon me.”
In sum, only Liszt could have written such a devil-daring work and survived another half century without getting struck by lightning (he took church vows later in life, some say to improve his résumé in certain high quarters). About Liszt, poet Charles Baudelaire wrote:
“Dear Liszt, through the cloudy mist, above the flowing rivers, above the cities where pianos sing of your glory, where publishers translate your wisdom – wherever you may be – in the splendor of the Eternal City or in the mist of the dreamy lands of consolation – improvising chants of inexpressible sadness, or confide to paper your abstruse meditations, Voluptuous songs of eternal Agony – philosopher, poet and artist – I salute your immortality.”
born: 8 September 1841, Nelahozeves, Bohemia; died: 1 May 1904, Prague, Czechoslovakia
Symphony No.8 in G Major, Op.88
Allegro con brio
Allegretto grazioso; Molto vivace
Allegro ma non troppo
First Classics performance: January 19, 1961, conducted by Josef Krips; most recent performance: April 10, 2010, conducted by JoAnn Falletta; duration 36 minutes
Antonin Dvořák was fortunate to receive thorough training in the styles and methods of the early masters, from the Renaissance through Beethoven. Moreover, he was also keenly interested in ‘modern’ trends. For example, he signed-on early as an admirer of Richard Wagner without compromising his enthusiasm for Brahms and Tchaikovsky.
Dvořák also journeyed to the United States, where he resided primarily in New York City, although he also took time to venture into the heartland as far west as Iowa. By the composer’s own accounts, he eagerly absorbed American motifs at every step, paying special attention to the spirit and nuance of indigenous folk songs, dances and ethnic spirituals from Europe and Africa.
As a result, for his time, Dvořák’s palette was perhaps the most colorful and informed in all of Europe. Best known today are his nine symphonies, virtuoso concertos for the violin and cello and the graceful settings of his popular Slavonic Dances. But his catalog otherwise includes pearls lesser known, with a variety of overtures and tone poems like The Wood Dove and The Golden Spinning Wheel. (For Dvořák, the distinction about whether a piece was a tone poem or not was rhetorical – just about everything he ever scored contained a program of one kind or another). He also composed the opera, Rusalka, a small wealth of chamber music and many songs.
Dvořák’s music blooms with a particular gypsy touch, a cachet manifest in everything he ever composed. Added to this are his indelible gifts for weightless beauty, liquid eloquence, heart-struck melodies, and wistful harmony – precisely like the opening of Symphony No.8 of 1889. Note the deep intonations in the strings, broken in a moment by an idyllic flute just before the rhythmic base becomes bright and unmistakably dance-like. This is high-Slavic art, with a continuous major-to-minor harmonic spin, blending airy lightness with piquant mystery at every turn.
The second movement Adagio opens with the inscrutable highlights characteristic of Eastern Europe, teasing the ear, mostly in C minor. But here and there the skies seem to brighten momentarily, carried by bouncing woodwinds over a lovely descant in the strings. The movement ends after a few diminishing taps in the trumpets, coyly tuned with a trace of Picardie (a picturesque term for a closing chord that blends from minor to major).
For beguiling beauty and haunting enigma, nowhere in music is there a moment more captivating than the exquisite waltz in G minor which soars from the violins at the beginning of the third movement. It is as if the dance in triple time has just returned from heartache – barely but bravely – with faith intact:
Thou, Ambrosial Waltz, when first the moon
Beheld thee twirling, to thy melting tune
Endearing, Seductive – Muse of motion!
Lord Gordon Byron
Back in G major, stand by for the peal of sterling trumpets, heralding the new dawn of the last movement. In a moment the cello section chants the principal tune which is then taken up by the full orchestra in a flowing set of brilliant variations. Dvořák has conjured a mini-suite of Slavonic dances on the fly – i.e. cryptic tunes and volatile energy scored with breathless swirls of color. At the coda, the curtain closes with a furiant-flurry of brazen accents. (A furiant is a vigorous Czech folk dance). Brilliant..!