With the return of live performance, it has been a good fall season for music lovers.  Although the unforeseen spread of COVID’s Delta variant has necessitated masks at most venues, at least we're in the same room as the musicians, a far cry from the situation last fall. 

Pianist Joyce Yang

Pianist Joyce Yang

Pianist Joyce Yang, a Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra audience favorite, makes a welcome return to Kleinhans on November 5–6 as soloist in Grieg’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in A minor under the baton of JoAnn Falletta. Yang made her BPO debut in January 2011 in the most exciting way possible. Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang was scheduled to make his BPO debut performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor in the most heavily promoted and anticipated concert of that season, when, due to illness, he had to cancel two days before the concert.  Yang, a rising New York City-based pianist, was contacted, and, after an extended late night practice session, she took a jet to Buffalo the following morning. The resulting concert, which ended with a spontaneous standing ovation, has moved into the annals of Buffalo classical music history. Yang, who has since returned several times, explores the deeper meanings of a piece, so it will be interesting to hear her interpretation on the Grieg concerto, one of the most popular and Romantic in the repertoire. 

Bracketing the Grieg, Falletta leads the orchestra in two early twentieth century neoclassical masterpieces by Russian composers. Sergei Prokofiev composed his Symphony No.1 in D major in Russia amid the chaos of the revolutionary year of 1917. While the composer disliked the term neoclassical for this symphony, it seems appropriate, since the work has elements of both Haydn and Mozart that are obvious to anyone familiar with their music. 

Igor Stravinsky composed his delightful one-act ballet, Pulcinella, in 1920 for Sergei Diaghilev, impresario of Ballets Russes. It’s based on the stock characters of a libretto from the early eighteenth century Italian Commedia dell’arte, and uses elements of the score, then thought to have been by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. This performance features the Pulcinella Suite, from elements of the ballet.

Keith Lockhart, longtime conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, makes his BPO debut on November 20–21. The program features Russian-born virtuoso Philippe Quint playing Samuel Barber’s 1939 Violin Concerto. Although Quint will be performing for the first time with the BPO, he has a long-standing Buffalo connection. In 2006, Buffalo industrialist Clement Arrison and wife Karen, working through the Stradivari Society, lent their “Ex-Kiesewetter” Stradivarius, then valued at four million dollars, to the Grammy-nominated Quint. Unfortunately, in April 2008, Quint accidentally left the violin in a New York taxicab. After a day of frantic telephoning, Quint discovered that the violin had spent the remainder of the night on the seat of the cab, which owner Mohamed Khalil parked on a Newark street. When Quint arrived to recover the violin, according to press reports “He dropped to his knees and shed tears of joy.”

The Barber concerto is arguably the most significant twentieth century American concerto for violin. The first movement, essentially lyrical, is followed by an extended andante introduced by an oboe solo before the violin enters with a contrasting and rhapsodic theme. The oboe melody then repeats, while the irresistible perpetuum mobile final movement highlights the brilliant and virtuosic character of the violin. 

The UB Department of Music offers a full slate of events. On November 12, an intriguing faculty recital, Difficult Grace—described as evocative, theatrical, and genre-bending—is an evening-length, multimedia concert tour de force conceived by and featuring Seth Parker Woods in the triple role of cellist, narrator/guide, and movement artist. 

The Friends of Vienna Sunday afternoon series continues on November 7 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 1080 Main, across from the Anchor Bar, with the long-delayed debut of the BPO Double Bass Sextet, originally scheduled for March 2020. “Spending the past year and a half performing to an empty hall was something that none of the BPO musicians saw coming,” says associate principal bass Brett Shurtliffe, “but we do a large amount of recording projects a year, so we’re used to ‘turning it on’ even when Kleinhans is empty.  While we lamented the energy of a live audience, many of us felt we were able to focus on the details and technique required for performing at the highest level. Simultaneously, while we were at work honing our craft, we were also pursuing side projects, remote performances, and creating art in a free and exciting way that the expectations of a normal season usually keeps us from.  We owned the music we made during quarantine unlike any moment before, and now we’re ready to share all that excitement with everyone.” friendsofvienna.org


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