Classically Speaking / Behind the scenes at the BPO
A journey through music history and interpretation started with Alma Mahler
Ed Yadzinski with some of his extensive memorobilia collection.
Photo by ALANA ADETOLA FAJEMISIN
The conservator of the classics at Kleinhans
A few years ago, musician, writer, annotator, and music historian Edward Yadzinski was in the stacks at the Eastman School of Music library looking over the memoirs of Alma Mahler (see sidebar) when the word Buffalo caught his attention. Upon further investigation, he learned that Gustav Mahler was in Buffalo in 1910 conducting the New York Philharmonic during a national tour with the orchestra. Yadzinski managed to secure a program of the concert which was held at the Buffalo Convention Hall (later known as the Elmwood Music Hall) on December 7, 1910. The program consisted of a Bach suite arranged by Mahler, who was featured on harpsichord; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6; and three selections by Wagner. The original printed program is now installed in the BPO Archive.
“I’m a library sleuth,” says Yadzinski. “The Internet is good if you want to confirm dates and other things. These days, it’s much better than it was when it started but it still can’t be exactly trusted. (Nor, according to some critics, can Alma’s memoirs.) But for the printed biographies and the narratives on particular styles, there’s a lot in the stacks in libraries everywhere but especially at Eastman. The library at Eastman is extraordinary and I’m there frequently. It’s said that it may be the finest, most comprehensive musical library in the world. Here in Buffalo, the UB Music Library at Baird Hall has been a tremendous resource for me.”
In addition to the story of Mahler, Yadzinski found documentation of Buffalo recitals by Ravel, Prokofiev, violinist Fritz Kreisler, and Sergei Rachmaninoff, many of them long before the founding of the BPO. Other world-class orchestras at the Elmwood Music Hall in the 1920s included Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini leading the La Scala Orchestra, and Serge Koussevitzky with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. All of this Buffalo musical history and a great deal more can be found in the BPO Archive, a project initiated, curated, and managed by Yadzinski and accessible at bpo.org under About/Archives.
Teaching, writing, and playing under Lukas Foss
A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Edward Yadzinski began his career with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra as a young clarinetist in the early 1960s. “In 1964, I joined the orchestra with Lukas Foss, the wild and wooly days, when the orchestra had gone from the super conservative William Steinberg to the Viennese maestro Josef Krips, who was marvelous in the great Beethoven and Schubert tradition. Then Lukas Foss came to town and we were playing with the Grateful Dead within a few months.” In the early 1990s Yadzinski retired from performing with the orchestra and began his work as its historian and the annotator for BPO programs. His notes are scholarly but bright and informal and reflect a lifetime of intimacy with every aspect of musical expression and history. “Occasionally, for a special concert, the artists may have their own people write the program notes but for the most part, I do the sixteen classic programs a year and sometimes the youth concerts and programs at Artpark,” Yadzinski says. In addition to his writing, he taught clarinet and saxophone performance at UB for forty-three years and lectured on acoustics at UB and the University of California at San Diego during a sabbatical from the BPO.
The secrets of the scores
“Generally, when I write something, reading about it is one thing but the best thing is just looking at the score. It’s invaluable to be able to do that. I’ve actually performed almost everything that I write about, which has been very helpful,” says Yadzinski. “The scores are at the UB Music Library but there’s also a terrific score resource website. For example, I’ve looked at the entire score of the Sibelius Quartet that is being considered for next season with the Chamber Music Society. The Chamber Music Society was in a similar situation as the BPO some twenty years earlier. Someone missed the deadline for their notes and so I got almost the same phone call. I was able to put something substantial together for them in a short time because I had collected so much data by then. So I’ve been doing that for five or six years. But I’ve long been enthralled with the Chamber Music Society and helped them create a computer archive for a performance history of everything they’ve ever presented.”
Over the years, the BPO has produced some seventy-five recordings and Yadzinski has written the liner notes for many of them, particularly those recorded on the Naxos label. All of this recording history is held in the BPO Archive, a project initiated in 2001, which also contains the entire history of the orchestra from its founding in 1935 to the present, as well as documentation of the music history of Buffalo dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. The history of the orchestra on the website also includes a listing of every musician who ever performed with the BPO on a seasonal contract basis all the way back to 1935.
“It’s my intent that someday the orchestra will get a grant and have funds to open up all these materials entirely to the public and put them in a display room,” says Yadzinski. “In the meantime, they’re safely locked up in the catacombs of the hall. My many years with the orchestra turned out to be a very good help when it comes to writing the notes. It keeps me in a performance perspective and helps recall what was going on at a particular time and to remember things about the music that you don’t readily find in some biography books. It’s quite a happy confusion of coincidence and seems to turn on the lights for me a bit. Meanwhile, I’m the if-you-need-me-I’m-here kind of guy. Which is most of the time, I’m happy to say.”