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Gershwin and all that jazz

The BPO takes its show on the road in March

Pianist Conrad Tao makes a return engagement as soloist in George Gershwin’s incomparable Concerto in F.

Photo by Brantley Gutierrez


Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra mounts its first international tour in thirty years this March, when JoAnn Falletta takes the orchestra to Poland. The BPO’s performance at Warsaw’s prestigious Beethoven Easter Festival will be the first appearance of an American symphony orchestra in the festival’s twenty-year history, and Falletta will also make history as the first American woman to conduct an orchestra at the festival.


Before leaving in the middle of the month, the BPO will offer concerts at Kleinhans on Saturday, March 10, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 11, at 2:30 p.m., an ideal going away present. Exciting young pianist Conrad Tao, who gave a dazzling performance of John Adams’ Century Rolls a couple of seasons ago, makes a return engagement as soloist in George Gershwin’s incomparable Concerto in F. Born in Illinois in 1994, Tao appeared last year with the leading orchestras of New York City, Dresden, Milan, Rome, Ottawa, and Mexico City.


Gershwin gained initial popularity as a songwriter before shaking up the staid world of classical music with his irresistible Rhapsody in Blue, composed for piano and jazz orchestra in 1924. Rhapsody had to be orchestrated by another composer, Ferde Grofé, so when Gershwin was commissioned by New York Symphony music director Walter Damrosch to write a piano concerto in 1925, he was determined to do his own orchestration. Gershwin composed the original two-piano version in July at the Chautauqua Institution, during a busy year when he also worked on a new musical with his lyricist brother, Ira, and wrote the songs for an operetta. The Concerto combines jazz elements such as the Charleston, the blues, and what the composer described as “an orgy of rhythm” in its final movement, and had a huge popular success. While music critics gave it somewhat condescending approval, the work’s continuing popularity has proven the public right and the critics wrong.


The program also includes Samuel Barber’s Symphony No.1 and Bernstein’s infectiously melodic Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, as well as a genuine rarity, the BPO premiere of the Adagietto from Krzysztof Penderecki’s Paradise Lost, a work commissioned for bicentenary of the United States.


From aloft

On Sunday, March 4, at 7 p.m., Camerata di Sant’Antonio offers the American premieres of four new works at St. Louis Church, 780 Main Street. For the first two works, both performed from the loft with Frank Scinta at the organ, Camerata will be joined by the St. Louis Choir, along with Rob Pacillo and vocal soloists from Harmonia.


Seattle composer and clarinetist Bob Ingalls composed his Ave Maria for mixed choir and string orchestra. Dutch film composer Maarten Spruijt wrote Thurémin for SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), strings, organ, and percussion, to a text comprising phrases of syntactically correct sounding, but meaningless words. “I find Thurémin very close to the ideas heard in the music Trevor Morris wrote for the Netflix series The Tudors with pseudo-Latin texts, albeit each having their distinct composer’s style,” says Camerata music director Christopher Weber.


Valerie Heywood and Paul Schlossman are soloists in Allan Stephenson’s Concerto for Oboe, Viola, and Strings. Stephenson has described his works as “romantic, lyrical, exciting rhythmically, but, above all, enjoyable to play and listen to.” Latvian composer Georgs Pelecis composed Flowering Jasmine for violin, marimba, and strings.  Pelecis studied under Aram Khachaturian at the Moscow Conservatory and his works have been championed by Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica. Soloists are Latvian-born violinist Inga Yanoski and Buffalo percussionist John Bacon.


Gryphon Trio

Photo courtesy of Gryphon Trio


Gryphon Trio

Artistic programming collaboration is a very good thing, as has been proven several times in the past few years when the Buffalo Chamber Music Society and the University at Buffalo Department of Music have cosponsored appearances by high-powered classical music groups. The Toronto-based Gryphon Trio, which has earned the reputation of being one of the finest piano trios in the world over the past quarter-century, makes its local premiere on March 13, at 8 p.m., in Kleinhans’ Mary Seaton Room. The Trio plays Beethoven’s Piano Trio in C minor, Op.1, No.3, and his Piano Trio in Eb major, Op.70, No.2, as well as the rarely programmed Shostakovich Piano Trio No.1 in C minor, Op.8. Information: bflochambermusic.org.


On March 14 at 7:30 p.m., the action switches to UB’s Slee Hall, where the program includes Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op.1, No.1 and his majestic Piano Trio in B-flat Major, Op.97 ‘Archduke,’ along with Shostakovich’s 1944 Piano Trio No.2 in E minor, Op.67, his heartfelt memorial to a prematurely dead close friend and all the victims of World War II. Information: slee.buffalo.edu.


James Piorkowski


The composer and the guitarist

Friends of Vienna open their spring season on Sunday, March 25, at 3:30 p.m. at the Unity Church, 1243 Delaware Avenue, with a recital by guitarist James Piorkowski—a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the Fredonia School of Music, where he has headed the guitar department since 1983—in a program of original compositions and arrangements by Piorkowski.


“I love this recital,” says Piorkowski, “because as composer, arranger, and performer, I get to present to the audience the influences and backstories behind the compositions and arrangements. This makes for a unique recital experience and greatly personalizes the music-making process.


“Some of my works were inspired by guitarists that I greatly admire. For example, I will be playing my compositions Hear My Train: A Caprice for Jimi Hendrix, and Rolando: A Tango for Roland Dyens. In addition, I will play my modern guitar realizations of selected works by the baroque virtuoso, Francesco Corbetta, from his 1671 collection called ‘La Guitarre Royalle.’ Other inspirations come from my visits to fascinating faraway locales, and so I will be playing Uraca, Venezuela, and In the Shadow of Winter’s Moon, Spain.


“The only works that I will perform that I didn’t write are two pieces by my late, dear friend, Roland Dyens. These pieces are special to me because of their dedications. Fleur de parresse was dedicated to my wife, Susan, and Le joueur de kora was dedicated to me. Both compositions are treasured gifts.” Information: friendsofvienna.org     


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