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A Legacy of Jewish Composers

The Friends of Vienna honor the High Holy Days

The Amberg Quartet returns to the Friends of Vienna on Sunday, October 2, at 3:30pm, for a special concert event celebrating the Jewish High Holy Days.

When oboist and English horn player Paul Schlossman moved to Pittsburgh after finding a new job last spring, the remaining Amberg Quartet members—Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra principal clarinetist John Fullam, BPO flutist Betsy Reeds, and pianist Persis Parshall Vehar, Canisius College’s composer-in-residence—had to find a suitable substitute to maintain the unique instrumental combination of their group. Luckily, they had to look no further than the ranks of the BPO for Anna Mattix, who has been the orchestra’s English horn player since 2007. Mattix, a member of the woodwind faculties at Canisius College, Buffalo State College, and the University at Buffalo, will make her solo debut with the BPO this fall, playing Donizetti’s Concertino for English Horn.

British composer Gerald Finzi, active in the first half of the 20th century and best known for his many vocal works, also wrote some memorable instrumental compositions. His Interlude for English horn and piano has been described as “the first real manifestation of the composer’s mature idiom. The demanding solo part is underpinned with idiomatic writing for the piano, as the music evolves with a natural flowing momentum. The work has a cyclic feeling to it, and its power of expression makes it rewarding for players and listeners alike.”

John Fullam thinks Finzi’s ability to write music for voice is the key to his success in writing for the clarinet. “Most of the great composers of music for the clarinet, like Weber and Brahms, have also been very gifted vocal composers,” says Fullam. “Finzi’s Five Bagatelles for clarinet and piano contains some of the most beautiful melodies that I have ever heard, with an emotional depth equivalent to Brahms, so it’s not surprising that they are in the repertoire of almost every professional clarinetist.”

There is an amusing story about Mendelssohn’s two sparkling Konzertstücke, (Concert Pieces), composed in 1833 for the clarinet virtuosi Heinrich Baermann and his son Carl. The Baermanns were renowned for their cooking, and Mendelssohn wrote the works in exchange for a culinary treat of sweet dumplings and cheese strudel. The second Konzertstück will be performed in a transcription for clarinet, English horn and piano. Swiss-American composer Ernst Bloch composed his neo-classical Concertino for flute, viola and string orchestra in 1948 while living in Oregon, and the version for flute, clarinet, and piano captures the work’s shifting moods, alternating playfulness with a more reflective quality. Contemporary American composer Lowell Liebermann’s poignant Soliloquy for Solo Flute is an exquisitely lyrical meditation, whose mood is well-suited for a time of religious remembrance.

In the past, the Amberg Quartet had been able to rely of the musicological discoveries of Schlossman, the local musician best able to come up with neglected or forgotten classical works. While that connection may now be stretched, it is by no means broken, but for this particular event, the other members of the group had to rely on their own resources for repertoire. Betsy Reeds discovered a very obscure, but charming work, Three Pastels for flute, oboe and clarinet, by Alexander von Kreisler, while composer Persis Vehar contributed her own recent composition, To Music, for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet and Piano, dedicated to the Friends of Vienna.

Tickets are $8, $6 for students. For more information, visit

Camerata di Sant’Antonio: Risorgimento Romantico

The Camerata di Sant’Antonio, led by music director Christopher Weber, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Risorgimento—the unification of Italy—on Sunday, October 2, at 7pm, in St. Anthony of Padua R. C. Church, behind Buffalo City Hall. A celebration of Italian unification would not be complete without the music of Giuseppe Verdi, and the program includes his overture to the opera Nabucco. The chorus of Hebrew slaves from Nabucco, “Va, pensiero,” has long been thought to have served as an unofficial anthem for the Italian patriots of that era.

The 19th-century composer Giovanni Bottesini was a rare example of a double bass virtuoso, and Edmond Gnekow will be the soloist in his Elegy and Tarantella. Also on the program are Miran, a short work by the young contemporary Italian composer Leonardo Schiavo, and the melancholy Third Suite, based on Renaissance lute songs and Baroque guitar pieces, from Ottorino Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances. Soprano Holly Bewlay is the soloist in three favorite arias by Puccini: “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’more” from Tosca; “O mio babbino” from Gianni Schicchi; and “Un bel di, vedremo” from Madama Butterfly. There will be a champagne reception on the piazza before the concert (weather permitting) and a delicious reception after the concert.

Tickets are $15 in advance, $17 at the door. For more information, call 854-2563 or visit

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