The Return of Michael Ludwig

Former BPO Concertmaster brings his new partner to town

By Jan Jezioro

Glenn Cortese will be on two different podiums this weekend, when he leads his Western New York Chamber Orchestra in a pair of concerts featuring the music of J.S. Bach, Michael Haydn, and the local premiere of his own recent new work. The first performance on Friday, April 1 at 7:30pm will take place in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. The Sunday April 3 event is at 4pm in King Concert Hall, on the SUNY Fredonia Campus. 

Michael Ludwig had a successful 8 season run as BPO concertmaster under music director JoAnn Falletta, which also included many appearances as a featured soloist with the orchestra, several of which were released as critically praised CD’s. Ludwig resigned his position at the end of the 2013-2014 season to pursue his career as a touring soloist. This weekend, Ludwig will be returning to our area for his first appearance since leaving the orchestra. He will be joined by Rachel, his new bride, whom he married onstage at a Philly Pops concert this past October, for a performance of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor BWV 1043. Rachel Ludwig has performed with the Delaware Symphony and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, and has made appearances with pop music icons Rod Stewart and Peter Gabriel. An active chamber musician, Ms. Ludwig was a winner at the 2007 Silberman Chamber Music Festival.

Vernon Huff, director of the Fredonia Women’s Choir, will lead his vocal ensemble and soprano soloists Lucille Horn and Marie Karbacka, along with mezzo soprano Meredith Smietana, in a performance of the Missa Sancti Aloysii  by Michael Haydn, whose own very original compositions have all too often been overshadowed by the works of his far more famous older brother, Joseph. “Vernon brought the piece to me”, says Cortese, “and I thought it was a great choice for our concert”.

Besides being the artistic director of both the WNYCO, and the Greely Philharmonic, Glen Cortese is an internationally active guest conductor. Cortese is also a talented composer and arranger. The latter talent was very much in evidence in his new chamber music arrangement of Mahler’s late masterpiece, Das Lied von der Erde. The work’s premiere a couple of years ago in Rosch Hall at Fredonia, featuring Canadian mezzo-soprano Lynne McMurtry and American heldentenor Marc Deaton, was enthusiastically received by a full house, on a very wintery day.

Cortese’s Concerto for String Quartet and String Orchestra was commissioned by the Oregon Mozart Players for a concert in 2011 with the American String Quartet. “My initial inspiration was to create a work for string quartet and chamber orchestra”, says Cortese, “but during reflection about what would be the most practical, the idea of writing a companion piece for the Elgar Introduction and Allegro , which is for string quartet and string orchestra, seemed to make the most sense. This work is the first I had written in a long time where it is pure music, not based on any concept, text or outside program; it simply exposes and develops musical ideas.

The challenge of writing a concerto for and ensemble of the same instruments as the orchestra is a great one. How does one differentiate between the two groups and make them distinctive? The obvious answer was to create a work that takes its cue from the baroque concerto grosso form where the string quartet functions as the concertino and the string orchestra as the ripieno. In addition, I also have opposed the two groups with different technical devices in order to distinguish them from each other while they are playing simultaneously”.

Admission to the Friday event is free. Adult tickets for the Sunday concert are $22; free for SUNY students with I.D. Phone: 673-3501(716)673-3501 (716)673-3501