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Music for strings, winds, voices, and film

Dvorak at Kleinhans, a quirky quartet, choral riches

Xavier Jara

Jara and Lark images courtesy of the artists and the BPO; Danish Quartet photo by Caroline BittencourtĀ 


Guitars are coming

Guitar aficionados, take note. Here’s your chance to share the stage with one of the world’s great classical guitarists. Xavier Jara is the 2016 winner of the Guitar Foundation of America Competition and appears at Kleinhans Music Hall on April 3 in a concert during which audience members will be seated onstage. The performance of this brilliant young guitarist is an intimation of things to come in June—the biennial JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition.


The one concerto composer

Antonin Leopold Dvorak wrote nine symphonies, fourteen string quartets, and dozens of other major compositions, including one cello concerto, one piano concerto, and one violin concerto. On April 6 and 7, Tessa Lark plays the Dvorak Violin Concerto in A Minor on her Stradivarius with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans. Lark was awarded the use of the Strad for four years based on her performance at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. She describes the rich sound of the instrument beneath her ear as “mind-blowing.” Also on the bill with the Dvorak is Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 4 and Three Dances from the opera The Bartered Bride by Bedrich Smetana, whose compositions influenced Dvorak, his fellow Bohemian.


Tessa Lark plays at Kleinhans April 6 and 7.


Hunting season at the BCMS

On April 10, the Buffalo Chamber Music Society presents its final concert of the season featuring the Danish String Quartet. When the three Danes (Rune, Asbjørn, and Frederik) and their Norwegian cellist (Fredrik) appeared here two years ago, they brought music by Janacek, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn. The current concert brings Mozart’s String Quartet No. 17. Called “The Hunt” by later listeners—for its opening 6/8 theme resembling a hunting horn call—this piece is one of the six quartets that Mozart referred to as “my six children” in dedicating them to his master Haydn. The hunting theme continues with a performance of the Jagdquartett (Hunt Quartet) by Jörg Widmann, a thoroughly individualistic and adventuresome contemporary German composer. Finally, the quartet will expand our musical horizons with ebullient renditions of Nordic folk music. In a recent press release about this music, the quartet suggested that, “you don’t own a folk tune, you simply borrow it for a while.” In that spirit, the Danish Quartet has borrowed and arranged a bunch of Nordic folk tunes on a recording called Wood Works. More recently, they’ve produced a new recording entitled Last Leaf, which includes traditional music from the Nordic countries as well as the Faroe and Shetland Islands in the middle of the North Atlantic.


Celebrating our heritage of immigration

Dvorak returns to Kleinhans on April 21 and 22 when the BPO presents Journey to the New World. Dvorak wrote his Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” (aka New World Symphony) while he was director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York. The symphony sets the tone for Peter Boyer’s multimedia work Ellis Island: The Dream of America, with its theme of immigration and discovery and the compelling stories of those who came to this land to escape poverty and tyranny elsewhere. Told by actors from Road Less Traveled Productions, and accompanied by music composed by Boyer, the stories are based on interviews from the Ellis Island Oral History Project. The composer chose stories from immigrants from seven countries who arrived on these shores between 1910 and 1940. Historic photographs now on display in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum provide a visual backdrop to the actors. This timely production underscores the critical importance of immigrants in the evolving story of America.


Traditions of musical outreach

Two important BPO traditions continue this month, both within the music hall and out in the community. The first program is the external one, in which a member of the orchestra appears at a library for a free solo recital and discussion. On April 23, violist Janz Castelo visits the Downtown Central Library and the Orchard Park Library for talks and demonstrations entitled Inner Voices of the Orchestra. The viola is one of those inner voices that contribute to the orchestra’s distinctive sound. Castelo also discusses the viola as a solo instrument in the Hector Berlioz concerto Harold in Italy, which is performed in May by Roberto Diaz, head of the Curtis Institute of Music. Diaz also performed in a November Buffalo Chamber Music Society concert with his trio.


The other tradition is a series of Masterclasses conducted at Kleinhans by either a member of the orchestra or by a guest artist. These are aimed at advanced students, but are also free and open to the public. BPO principal trumpet Alex Jokipii leads a masterclass on April 28, working one-on-one with local talented students. Jokipii holds a master of music degree in trumpet performance from The Juilliard School and has been with the orchestra since 1998.


The Danish String Quartet performs on April 10, in the Buffalo Chamber Music Society's final concert of the season.


More music around town

Two major choral events beckon in April. The first is an informal evening of song on April 14 at Kleinhans, when Pops conductor John Morris Russell leads the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, choirs and ensembles from around the region, and an unabashed audience in a program of favorite and classic songs entitled Buffalo Sings! The other, more musically rigorous concert features Vocalis Chamber Choir and the Harmonia Chamber Singers, who are performing a choral masterpiece composed in the late sixteenth century by Thomas Tallis: the forty-voice motet, Spem in Alium (“hope in any other”). The concert takes place at St. Joseph’s University Church on Sunday, April 15.


The Friends of Vienna presents its final concerts of the season this month featuring the Clara String Quartet on April 8 and BPO associate principal bass Brett Shurtliffe on April 29. The Clara String Quartet comprises BPO members Amy Glidden, violin; Loren Silvertrust, violin; Megan Prokes, viola; and Eva Heuer, cello. All Friends of Vienna concerts are held at its longtime venue, Unity Church at 1243 Delaware Avenue, and commence at 3:30 p.m.


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