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Fall Classics

The local classical music scene swings into high gear

The summer classical music festivals are already memories, and while many local classical musicians are enjoying a well-earned few weeks off, the start of the fall season is not far away. Here are some of the highlights of the upcoming busy season of classical music before the Christmas holiday season.

Buffalo Chamber Music Society

Celebrating its 88th season, the Buffalo Chamber Music Society is one of the oldest continually operating chamber music groups in America. The BCMS has a long and proud tradition of being the presenter of the finest touring chamber musicians in Western New York, with a decided emphasis on string quartets. The society is also noted for providing the experience in its Tuesday night series in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall of hearing top nationally known artists at prices that are a fraction of those in other metropolitan areas, especially to season subscribers.

The season kicks off on October 4, with a performance by the American Quartet of quartets by Haydn and Beethoven, as well as Bartok’s final quartet, the Quartet No. 6. The original members of the quartet, including current violinist Laurie Carney, who holds the distinction of performing quartets longer than anyone in the field, were students at Juilliard when they formed the quartet in 1974, and they were launched nationally by winning both the Coleman Competition and the Naumburg Chamber Music Award in the same year.

The members of the Johannes Quartet include the first American to win the Paganini Violin Competition in 24 years, a Concert Artists Guild Competition winner, and both the principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who met at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, where they were mentored by the Guarneri Quartet. Their November 15 program includes a late quartet by Mozart, Schubert’s quartet masterpiece, Death and the Maiden, and an area premiere, Homunculus, composed for the group in 2007 by former LA Philharmonic music director Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The Brentano String Quartet, the first ever quartet-in-residence at Princeton University, also won the Naumburg prize, and their program on December 13 includes Debussy’s String Quartet, Schubert’s Quartettsatz and works by Haydn and Louis Andriessen.

The BCMS also sponsors three “Gift to the Community” recitals on Sunday afternoons with free admission. The first event in the series on September 25 features pianist Benjamin Moser, first prize winner in the prestigious Berlin Artur Schnabel Piano Competition, while the November 13 recital features Moscow State Conservatory graduate, clarinetist Narek Arutyunian, whose appearance last season was postponed due to a family death.

Pianist Fabio Bidini

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

The BPO celebrated its 75th anniversary season in fine fashion and shows no sign of letting up in its commitment to providing Western New York audiences with a world-class classical music experience. The season opens on Saturday, September 24, with a performance of Carl Orff’s popular choral masterpiece, Carmina Burana. BPO music director JoAnn Falletta will be on the podium for the performance, which features the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, under the leadership of Doreen Rao, and a cast of vocal soloists in Orff’s dramatically colorful mid-20th-century treatment of a couple of dozen anonymous medieval poems dealing with the fickleness of fortune, the joys of spring and a celebration of both the pains of love and the pleasures and dangers of lust, with side trips to the tavern and the gambling house.

On Friday, October 7, the first of the increasingly popular morning coffee concerts of the season, under Falletta’s baton, will feature a BPO audience favorite, American pianist Norman Krieger in a performance of Beethoven’s most poetic concerto, the Piano Concerto No. 4, as well as works by Philippe Gaubert and Carl Nielsen, with a repeat performance on Sunday afternoon, October 9.

Falletta will lead the orchestra in its Annual Gala on Saturday, October 22 with pianist Fabio Bidini as soloist in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, in an all-Russian program that includes Stravinsky’s Divertimento from The Fairy’s Kiss and Shostakovich’s Gadfly Suite. Bidini, who appeared as the soloist on the BPO’s 2010 Florida tour, is widely recognized as one of the finest Italian pianists of his generation. The Saturday night concert will be preceded with a special black tie dinner in the Mary Seaton Room to raise funds for the BPO’s ever-growing Youth and Education Concert Series. The same program, without the gala dinner, repeats on Sunday, October 23 at 2:30pm.

The pair of concerts on Friday, November 4 and Saturday, November 5 will feature BPO concertmaster Michael Ludwig in one of the most virtuosic of 19th-century violin concertos, Polish composer Henryk Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2. The program also includes a genuine rarity, Mieczysław Karłowicz’s symphonic poem A Sad Tale, in a BPO premiere performance, re-scheduled from last season, as well as Brahms’ lushly harmonic Symphony No. 3.

On November 19 and 20, BPO associate concertmaster Amy Glidden is the soloist in Prokofiev’s pyrotechnical Violin Concerto No. 2, one of the most popular 20th-century violin concertos. Falletta will be on the podium for the program, which begins with Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Isle of Bliss and closes with Tchaikovsky’s mighty Symphony No. 4.

The program on Saturday, December 3 and Sunday, December 4 is being billed as “Baroque Masters.” Guitarist Jason Vieaux, a Buffalo native who was recently appointed by the esteemed Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia to establish a guitar program, will make his BPO debut as soloist in both Vivaldi’s Concerto for Guitar in D Major and Rodrigo’s Fantasy for a Gentleman. Polish conductor Piotr Gajewski, founder, artistic director, and conductor of the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Washington, D.C., will be on the podium for the program, which also includes J. S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 and Handel’s Samson Overture and popular Water Music Suite No.2.

Camerata di Sant’Antonio

The Camerata di Sant’Antonio opens its new season on Sunday, October 2, at 7pm, at its home in St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church, behind Buffalo City Hall, with a program titled “Risorgimento Romantico” in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. Camerata founder and music director will conduct the program, which includes the overture to Verdi’s opera Nabucco—the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves (“Va, pensiero”) from Nabucco served as a de-facto national anthem during Italian unification—as well as Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, Bottesini’s Elegy and Tarantella, with Camerata bassist Edmund Gnekow as soloist, and several selections from Puccini operas. Following tradition, a generous buffet reception will follow the concert.

A Musical Feast

Founded by retired BPO concertmaster Charles Haupt and named the ensemble-in-residence of the Burchfield Penney a couple of years ago, A Musical Feast has its home in the acoustically superior Tower Auditorium of the Burchfield Penney Art Center. A continuing goal of A Musical Feast is to provide concert programs that offer the best of both the old and the new, and it has consistently done just that for the past five seasons. The first concert of the new season on Sunday, November 20 at 2pm will feature a dance interpretation of Pohádka, a fairy tale by Czech composer Leos Janacek, choreographed by Jon Lehrer, with dancers Immanuel Naylor and Colleen Walsh, accompanied by pianist Eric Huebner and cellist Jonathan Golove. Huebner will also perform Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, while violinist Charles Castleman and pianist Claudia Hoca combine for André Previn’s lighthearted but virtuosic Tango Song and Dance. Composer Moshe Shulman will play the accordion part in his Argentine Tango, accompanied by violinist Charles Castleman. Admission is free.

Pianist Joyce Yang

Ramsi P. Tick Concert Series

This season is the third season for the Ramsi P. Tick series in the Flickinger Center Auditorium on the Nichols School Campus, an ideal setting to hear the world class artists featured in the series, for acoustic clarity and unobstructed sightlines, as well as audience comfort. The organizers of the Tick series have made it solely a subscription series from its inception in 2001 in an effort to keep the administrative cost of attracting world class artists manageable; individual tickets are not available.

Pianist Joyce Chang won the hearts of a sold-out BPO audience when she appeared as a last-minute substitute for an ailing Lang Lang last winter. It must be nerve-wracking, to say the least, to step in as a substitute for the highest-profile classical musician in the world, but Chang proved herself more than up to the task, earning a well deserved standing ovation. Anyone who was at that event will not want to miss hearing Chang’s solo recital on Friday, September 23, of works by Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin, and Debussy, concluding with Schumann’s colorful Carnaval.

On Saturday, February 4, the Montreal based group Les Violons du Roy will make its Buffalo debut under its founder and music director, Bernard Labadie. The concert, by one of the finest Baroque music groups in North America, will feature works by W. F. Bach, Telemann, Alessandro Scarlatti, Vivaldi, and Geminiani, with recorder virtuoso Maurice Steger as soloist in the Concerto for Recorder in F Major. The Friday March 2 recital by pianist Richard Goode is co-sponsored by the UB Music Department and takes place in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on UB’s Amherst campus. Widely hailed as a pianist’s pianist, Goode will perform works by Chopin, Brahms and Schumann’s delightful Kinderszenen.

The series winds up on Tuesday, May 15, with a recital by the 22-year-old cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, who won the gold medal at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow this past June. Buffalo audiences may recall Hakhnazaryan’s appearance on a BCMS Gift to the Community recital in 2009.

The Buffalo Chamber Players

In the four short years since their first concert in 2007, the Buffalo Chamber Players have firmly established themselves on the local classical music scene. Under the leadership of their artistic director, BPO violist Janz Castelo, the group has earned a well-deserved reputation for innovative programming of both under-performed and rare works, helped by the fact that most of the group’s members are also BPO musicians. The group opens its season at its home in the Buffalo Seminary on September 21 with a program that includes the Coffee Cantata, one of Bach’s very few secular cantatas, with soloists sporano Christina Lynch, tenor Jeffrey Porter, and bass Timothy Flynn. Also on the program, Arvo Pärt’s hauntingly beautiful Mozart-Adagio for piano trio, as well as La Maja Dolorosa for violin, viola, and piano, a work by the group’s composer-in-residence, Fredonia faculty member Rob Deemer.

Dr. Alexander Glenfield, currently residing in Lockport, is a researcher in the throat singing of Tuva and Mongolia, and his Echoes of Derinkuyu, for overtone singer and chamber ensemble, based on his research, will also receive its premier. The group’s other fall concert, on November 2, focuses on the chamber music of Latin America, and includes works by Revueltas, Villa Lobos, and Piazzolla.

The Friends of Vienna

The Friends of Vienna celebrated its 35th anniversary season by expanding its schedule to six concerts last year, and it continues its long tradition of presenting chamber music concerts that feature the best classical musicians in Western New York at the lowest ticket prices in the area, with substantial additional savings for season subscribers. The Sunday afternoon series at the intimate Unity Church on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo kicks off on September 11, with a return engagement by Swedish pianist Susan Yondt, who enchanted a SRO audience last season in a nicely designed Chopin and Schumann recital. Her all-Nordic program features works by familiar composers such as Grieg and Sibelius, along with works by composers like Emil Sjögren and Heino Kaski, who rarely if ever appear on American piano recital programs. On October 2, the Amberg Quartet—BPO musicians John Fullam (clarinet), Anna Mattix (oboe and English horn), and Betsey Reeds (flute), along with Canisius College composer-in-residence, pianist Persis Vehar—offer an unusual selection of music by Jewish composers, including Mendelssohn and Milhaud and Gerald Finzi’s Bagatelles for Clarinet and Piano. The precociously talented young soprano Emily Helenbrook, who charmed the audience in a previous appearance on the series, returns on October 16, along with her long-time accompanist pianist David Bond, in a program of art songs and operatic arias. A meet-the-artists reception follows every concert.

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