Ragtime music, for all its associations with jazz, is often linked to the American classical tradition. In truth, it really lies somewhere between these two outposts of serious American music. Unlike classical music, ragtime, with its rollicking rhythms and sweet ballads, is invested in the emotions of performers and listeners. Unlike jazz, it is not a music of spontaneity or improvisation. Although performers, typically pianists, often take liberties with ragtime melodies, the music always originates from the written page.
On February 2, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, via livestream, presents Ragtime Kings, featuring the music of Scott Joplin, often hailed the King of Ragtime (“Maple Leaf Rag,” “The Entertainer”), Jelly Roll Morton, the self-proclaimed inventor of jazz (“King Porter Stomp,” “Jelly Roll Blues,” “Wolverine Blues”), and W. C. Handy, godfather of the written blues (“St. Louis Blues,” “Memphis Blues,” “Yellow Dog Blues,” “Beale Street Blues,” and many others). During his brief lifetime, Joplin wrote more than one hundred ragtime compositions, a ballet, and two operas. Handy orchestrated his blues songs and also wrote marches, symphonic works, a collection of spirituals, and an anthology of the blues. This affectionate BPO Pops tribute to ragtime is conducted by Jeff Tyzik, Principal Pops Conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
We last saw the brilliant young violinist Randall Goosby when he appeared in 2019 with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society. He joins the BPO on February 9 to perform the Violin Concerto No. 9 by eighteenth-century Black composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint Georges. The first acknowledged European composer of African ancestry, Saint George was also a champion fencer, a virtuoso violinist, and conductor of the foremost symphony orchestra in Paris. Like other violin concertos by the composer, this work features a quick first movement, a slow section, and a finale in medium tempo with a daring minor key adventure in the middle. Also on the bill is Mozart’s Symphony No. 29, “Danses Sacree et Profane” for harp and strings by Debussy, and Prologue and Variations by the prolific American composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.
Jeff Tyzik returns to Kleinhans on February 16 to lead the BPO in Havana Nights, an evocative performance of stirring south-of-the-border music from Cuba, Spain, and Argentina. Here are passionate tangos, tender ballads, and other Latin rhythms that make it easy to abandon the easy chair and glide across the parquet.
While largely unknown today, Anton Arensky was a celebrated composer, pianist, conductor, and music professor at the Moscow Conservatory in nineteenth-century Russia. He created operas, a ballet, and several important orchestral works including Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky. Written in 1894, a year after the death of Tchaikovsky, the piece began life as a movement in a string quartet, which became so popular that Arensky arranged it as a piece for orchestra. It consists of the theme, seven variations, and a coda based on Tchaikovsky’s song “Legend,” one of the composer’s Sixteen Children’s Songs.
On February 23, JoAnn Falletta leads the BPO in a performance of the Arensky as well as Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony for Strings in C minor and Haydn’s Symphony No. 44 in E minor, “Trauer,” in a program entitled Dramatic Reflections. The BPOnDemand Series continues on Tuesday evenings (7 p.m.) through February and March. Visit BPO.org for more information.
For the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, much of February’s slate of concerts has been rescheduled for later in the season. Meanwhile, the Society has purchased four concerts from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center that are being streamed to subscribers and patrons over a period of five days through March. The February concert, streaming February 9–13, features brilliant violist Paul Neubauer in a performance of the Shostakovich Impromptu for Viola and Piano, Liebeslied by Fritz Kreisler, Turina’s Las Musas de Andalucia, and American Vision for Viola and Piano Trio by Georges Boulanger. For further information, call 462-4939 or visit email@example.com.