Classically Speaking

Mendelssohn, Mozart, and holiday music



The Irish Tenors perform December 6 at Kleinhans Music Hall

 

The amazing Mendelssohn

In his short life, Felix Mendelssohn wrote piano compositions, chamber music, oratorios, concertos, and five symphonies by the time he was thirty-three. At thirteen, he composed his Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra, about the same time he was polishing off his twelve-string symphonies, not for public performance—just little ditties to play around the house. A celebrated pianist, organist, and conductor, Mendelssohn composed some 750 works, most of them unpublished in his lifetime. Late in life (his mid-thirties), he finally finished his Violin Concerto in E minor, a composition he worked on for more than six years with the help of his friend Ferdinand David, concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. After its premiere with David as soloist in 1845, Mendelssohn’s long-awaited Violin Concerto became one of the most popular in the repertoire.

 

Violinist Arnaud Sussman

 

Mendelssohn and Mozart at Kleinhans

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra presents Mendelssohn and Mozart on December 2 and 3. Making his BPO debut and performing the Mendelssohn is French violinist Arnaud Sussman, under the baton of guest conductor Andre Raphael. Born in Strasbourg, France, and currently based in New York City, Sussman produces a classic violin sound that has been compared to masters such as Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Kreisler. Raphael, formerly assistant conductor to Kurt Maser at the New York Philharmonic, has led major orchestras throughout the world during a distinguished career. The Mozart in the program’s title is the composer’s Symphony No. 41, aka the Jupiter, Mozart’s last and longest symphony, which was written in 1788 when Mozart was thirty-two. Also on the bill is Maurice Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, written as a reflective memorial both to the composer’s mother and to a French family of musicians and soldiers who died in World War I. After originally creating the composition as a solo piano suite, Ravel later transcribed four movements of the work for orchestra and it is this version the BPO presents on the program.

 

Conductor Andre Raphael

 

The Dover Quartet

The Dover Quartet, which performs on December 12 in the Mary Seaton Room at Kleinhans as part of the Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s current series, was inspired by the renowned Guarneri Quartet, with whom their members studied, and to whom they dedicated their first recording, fittingly entitled Tribute. On the recording, the Dover performs many of the same Mozart compositions that appeared on the Guarneri’s first recording fifty years earlier. In addition, the Guarneri’s violist, Michael Tree, joins the quartet on Mozart’s String Quintet in C minor. In April, the Dover appeared at UB to perform three concerts in this season’s Slee/Beethoven String Quartet Cycle. And just this past September, the quartet presented a benefit concert in Charlottesville, Virginia, to benefit the victims of the city’s violence in August. Their new recording, released in October, is entitled Voices of Defiance 1943 1944 1945 and features the works of three composers who created music during World War II—Viktor Ullmann, Dimitri Shostakovich, and Simon Laks. On December 12, the Dover Quartet performs Tchaikovsky’s Quartet No. 1, Bartok’s Quartet No. 1, and Four Miniatures for String Quartet by the American composer Richard Danielpour. The Dover Quartet was first formed at the Curtis Institute of Music, and took its name from Dover Beach, a composition for string quartet and baritone voice by Samuel Barber, another Curtis alumnus. The lyric of the composition is the poem of the same name written by English poet Matthew Arnold.

 

Soprano Aundi Moore

 

Deck the halls

If you fancy your holiday music with a beguiling Irish lilt, the celebration gets underway on December 6 at Kleinhans Music Hall with a concert by The Irish Tenors: Ronan Tynan, Finbar Wright, and Anthony Kearns. These versatile lads have been touring the world for nearly two decades, sharing the beauty and bittersweet allure of distinctive Irish songs and traditional Christmas melodies.

 

Maestro Falletta presents JoAnn’s Classical Christmas starring the BPO, the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, and acclaimed soprano Aundi Moore on December 8 and 9. The program is rich and far-reaching and includes orchestral music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Bizet, and Schubert; choral selections by Handel, Bach, and John Rutter; and selected soprano solos by Moore. In addition, the orchestra performs Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto” and Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor for Two Cellos and Orchestra featuring principal cellist Roman Mekinulov and son Benjamin Mekinulov.

 

Sunday, December 10, is Kid’s Day at Kleinhans, featuring the Jingle Bell Jam with holiday music, stories from Santa, and milk and cookies. There’s also a chance to get into the Christmas spirit by making cards for faraway soldiers and donating to Toys for Tots.

 

The following weekend, December 15–17, the irrepressible John Morris Russell blows into town with his sleigh and reindeer to present four Holiday Pops concerts. In addition to a hit parade of holiday tunes, this year’s concert features a reading of The Polar Express with the book’s famous illustrations projected above the BPO while the orchestra plays the score from the film based on the book.

 

Many other holiday concerts can be heard throughout the area in December, most of them during the first weeks of the month. Here are just a few to choose from:

 

The Buffalo Choral Arts Society performs sacred and secular songs of the season at three different venues: December 1 at Saint Mary’s Church of Swormville;  December 3 at Saint Joseph Cathedral, Buffalo; and December 9 at Saints Peter and Paul RC Church in Hamburg.

 

The Vocalis Chamber Choir presents A Vocalis Christmas on December 1 at SS. Peter & Paul Church in Williamsville and on December 2 at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum at 220 North Street in Buffalo.

 

Finally, at UB, there are two free concerts of general interest at the beginning of the month. On December 2, the UB Symphony plays at Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall at 3 p.m. and on December 4 at 7:30 p.m. there is a String Chamber Music concert at the Baird Recital Hall.

 

Musician Philip Nyhuis is a longtime contributor to Spree.

 

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