Itzhak Perlman highlights Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra schedule, Jim Fink, Business First

A combination of some of classical music’s biggest stars and a cutting-edge selection of works highlights the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2016 M&T Bank Classics series.

“It is a varied season.” said JoAnn Falletta, orchestra music director and principal conductor. “It may be the most variety, musically, we’ve put together in a season.”

The season includes 17 themed “classics” including return visits from such stars as violinists Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman and Stewart Copeland, drummer from the Police. It will also see the orchestra play along as members of the Irish Classical Theatre Co. perform the play “Amadeus” and the recording, for the Naxos label, of two pieces by Russian composer Alexander Scriabin.

“I’d say it is very different and very diverse,” Falletta said. “People will find a lot of surprises and I think they will have a lot of fun with it. Every piece has some sort of drama attached to it.”

The season begins on Sept. 17 with the opening night gala featuring Bell.

The other highlights include:

• Two weekends of celebrating Tchaikovsky on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 and Oct. 15 and Oct. 16 including the playing of the “1812 Overture” on the second weekend dates.

• Copeland will perform his self-penned “Tyrant’s Crush” on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.

“I don’t think the orchestra will have to play ‘Roxanne’,” Falletta joked.

• Noted pianst Carl Petersson will perform with the orchestra on Nov. 11 and Nov. 12.

• Tianwa Yong, a rising classical star, has been booked for a pair of Nov. 19 and Nov. 20 Kleinhans Music Hall concerts.

• A special pitch, made by Falletta — in Poland, convinced noted conductor Krzysztof Penderecki to cross the Atlantic Ocean and lead the orchestra on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4. This will be Penderecki’s first time in Buffalo and he hand-picked the three pieces that will be performed.

“This should be a special treat,” Falletta said.

• The traditional “Classical Christmas” with associate conductor Stefan Sanders leading the orchestra is set for Dec. 9 and Dec. 10.


• “Amadeus,” the joint BPO/Irish Classical Theatre production, has been booked for Jan. 20 to Jan. 22.

“It will be very dramatic,” Falletta said. “We will be playing the pieces they refer to in the play.”

• George Gershwin’s “American in Paris” highlights a pair of concerts set for Feb. 4 and Feb. 5.

• Brahams’ “Requiem” featuring the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus along with Scriabin’s “Symphony No. 4” will be performed on Feb. 18 and 19. The orchestra will record “Symphony No. 4” that week.

• Perlman returns to play with the orchestra on Feb. 25. He will perform selections from such movies as “Schindler’s List.”

• Organist Cameron Carpenter, who has a specially created orchestral organ, will guest star with the orchestra on March 10 and March 11.

“This may be the first time a true concert organ will be on stage with the orchestra in Kleinhans,” Falletta said.

• Sanders will conduct the orchestra on a Bach-themed concert(s) that will be performed on March 25 and March 26.

• Beethoven takes the centerstage for concerts booked for April 8 and April 9.

• A second Beethoven selection and along with Scriabin’s “Symphony No. 3” will be played on April 21 and April 22. The orchestra, with Falletta, will also record “Symphony No. 3” for Naxos.

• Wagner’s “World of the Ring” — which features selections from four pieces including “Die Walküre” will be performed on May 6 and May 7.

• Mark Bebbington, a noted pianist, will guest with the BPO on May 12 and May 13.

• The season concludes on June 3 and June 4 with William Walton’s “Belshazzar’s Feast” that concludes with a bagpiper walking on stage from the rear of Kleinhans Music Hall.

“That alone makes for a very dramatic piece,” Falletta said.