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Music to summon the summer season

Celebrating Rome and other Italian connections

JoAnn Falletta conducting as Anton Baranov performs in the 2016 finals

Photo by Eileen Elibol


Over the course of twelve years, Ottorino Respighi wrote three four-movement tone poems for orchestra celebrating the beauty of the city of Rome. Fountains of Rome was written in 1916, Pines of Rome in 1924, and Roman Festivals in 1928. On June 2 and 3, JoAnn Falletta leads the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra playing both Pines of Rome and Fountains of Rome at Kleinhans Music Hall. The orchestra also accompanies Italian pianist Benedetto Lupo in a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Since winning the bronze in the 1989 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Benedetto Lupo has pursued a career as both a touring and recording artist and as a professor of music in Rome. The Rhapsody is essentially a bravura piano concerto with orchestra and comprises twenty-four variations on the Paganini theme, the most famous and familiar of which is the lush and romantic eighteenth variation. In a satisfying note of historical symmetry, the Paganini theme is from the twenty-fourth and last of his Caprices for solo violin. Completing the Italian connections of the concert is a composition by Ildebrando Pizzetti, who wrote incidental music for theater in the early twentieth century. Three Symphonic Preludes was originally written for a production of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex in Milan in 1904. A favorite of conductor Arturo Toscanini, Pizzetti also wrote many other orchestral works and chamber music as well as a biography of Niccolo Paganini.


Italian pianist Benedetto Lupo will perform Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the BPO

Photo courtesy of BPO


The return of guitarists from around the world

The first full week in June brings two longstanding musical traditions to area listeners: June in Buffalo, the annual composers’ conference and festival of new music; and the biennial JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition. In the guitar competition, an international cohort of young guitarists spends a week in Buffalo playing for the community and competing for cash prizes, a recording contract, radio and TV exposure through WNED and PBS, and a return engagement with the BPO.


Each year, eight to ten semifinalists are selected from a field of thirty to forty guitarists. The semifinal competition is held at the WNED studios over the course of two evenings and is open to the public and aired live over WNED. On June 9, the three finalists are featured at a Kleinhans concert with the BPO, and the winner is announced after the concert. Since 2014, the winner has also been invited to perform at a prestigious recital in Milan, Italy. This year, in the interest of offering a more diverse program, a new prize is being offered: a $3,000 stipend to a guitarist who advances to the finals by playing one of six less well-known concerti composed between 1959 and 2010.


New music resounds at UB

Meanwhile, June in Buffalo opens at the University at Buffalo on June 4 with a concert at Lippes/Slee Hall by the Slee Sinfonietta, the professional chamber orchestra in residence at UB, and continues through June 10 when the Buffalo Philharmonic presents the festival’s final performance at the same venue. The orchestra’s concert presents a composition by June in Buffalo artistic director David Felder entitled Six Poems from Neruda’s Alturas. Commissioned by the BPO and the New York State Council on the Arts, this searching, insistent, and serenely mysterious work premiered in 1994 and is based on six of the twelve poems in Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s Alturas de Macchu Picchu (The Heights of Macchu Picchu). Also on the program are two works by John Harbison, another of the festival’s resident senior composers. Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra) was written while Harbison was sketching out plans for his two-act opera The Great Gatsby, which was adapted from the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Darkbloom: Overture for an Imagined Opera owes its title to the character Vivian Darkbloom in the novel Lolita. The character’s name is an anagram of the author’s: Vladimir Nabokov.


At this writing, Spree has the dates for the following June in Buffalo performances, but no program information.

The Mivos Quartet was formed in 2008 and is dedicated to performing the work of contemporary composers. In 2017, for example, the Mivos collaborated with the brilliant jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and the post-modern rapper Kool A.D. in the New York premiere of a new chamber work entitled “Oragami Harvest,” commissioned by the Ecstatic Music Festival in Manhattan. On June 5, the Mivos Quartet is at Baird Hall with a concert to be announced.


Perennial June in Buffalo artist Irvine Arditti presents a solo violin concert at Baird Hall on June 7. The first violinist of the Arditti Quartet, Mr. Arditti is a former co-concertmaster of the London Symphony Orchestra. The Arditti Quartet specializes in its distinctive interpretations of contemporary and twentieth century music.


Ensemble Mise-En is an international collective of string and wind instrumentalists based in Brooklyn and devoted to the performance of contemporary music. Led by composer Moon Young HA, Ensemble Mise-En performs at Baird Hall on the evening of June 8.


Under the direction of conductor Brad Lubman, Ensemble Signal, a diverse and flexible group of independent musical artists, plays at Lippes/Slee Hall on June 9. Ensemble Signal has an extensive history of performing and interpreting the works of contemporary composer Steve Reich.


All June in Buffalo concerts begin at 7:30 p.m., except for the BPO concert on Sunday June 10, which commences at 2:30 p.m.


A new orchestra in town

The Buffalo Civic Orchestra makes its Western New York debut on Sunday afternoon June 17 at St. John the Baptist Church in Lockport at 3 p.m. Founded and led by veteran conductor and former WNED announcer John Landis, the orchestra is available for special concerts and events at area churches and educational institutions. The Buffalo Civic Orchestra comprises professional freelance musicians and specially selected talented student musicians under the keen ear of concertmaster Gregory Docenko, a leading Buffalo violinist and educator. The orchestra’s ambitious debut program consists of Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture, Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished), Glinka’s Valse-Fantasy, “Spring” from The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, “Czardas” by Vittorio Monti, the Pavane in F-sharp minor by Gabriel Faure, Hungarian Dances Nos. 5 and 6 by Brahms, and Slavonic Dances Nos. 6 and 8 by Dvorak. The church is at 168 Chestnut Street in Lockport.      


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