Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Stagefright
Next story: Round 3, Week 3: Andrew J. Reimer's Country-Punk Extravaganza! vs. Nix Vega

A Greek Bearing Gifts

Leonidas Kavakos launches the latest Ramsi P. Tick concert series.

The talented violinist Leonidas Kavkos makes his Buffalo debut

The Ramsi P. Tick subscription concert series for 2010-2011 finally will be launched officially on Tuesday, February 8 at 7:30pm, in the Flickinger Performing Arts Center at the Nichols School, when acclaimed Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos makes his Buffalo area debut.

Kavakos has developed an enviable reputation as a soloist, particularly in Europe. “He is well on his way to becoming the most famous Greek in the classical world since Callas and Mitropoulos,” declared a leading British newspaper, The Independent. Following his winning of the Sibelius competition in 1985 and then the Paganini competition in 1988, Kavakos has appeared with the very best orchestras in the world. In 1991, he won the Gramophone Award for the first recording ever of the original version of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto. Kavakos, who plays the “Abergavenny” Stradivarius of 1724 and a Giovanni Battista Guadagnini of 1782, has been universally hailed for the integrity of his playing, as well as for his superb musicianship. The program that Kavakos has selected to perform, along with his usual accompanist, pianist Enrico Pace, is highly dramatic: Beethoven’s passionate Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major (“Kreutzer”) has been known to drive people to desperation, at least according to the great Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, in his novella “The Kreutzer Sonata.” Audience members who were lucky enough to hear the very young violinist Benjamin Beilman’s fine performance of Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 1 in F Minor at the Gift to the Community recital last month, will be able to compare it with that of Kavakos, a seasoned pro at the height of his powers. Also on the program are ten selections from the 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano, by the 37-year-old Russian composer Lera Auerbach, one of the last musicians to defect to the West before the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to the composer, the work follows in the footsteps of Bach, attempting to do what he did for music, but at the beginning of the 21st century, and in consideration of “the aesthetics of Western music and its progress with regard—or disregard—to tonality during the last century.”

Tales of woe

It has been a very rough season so far for area classical concert organizers. Just this past Saturday, Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who is currently, without a doubt, the highest-profile pianist in the world, cancelled his special, one-concert appearance with the BPO due to illness. With only 24 hours notice, BPO executive director Dan Hart and his staff did a great job in handling the crisis. They were able to re-schedule Lang Lang, who is rumored to be the highest-paid guest artist ever to appear with the BPO, for a July appearance at Kleinhans. The BPO also offered ticket holders for the Lang Lang concert the opportunity to attend a free concert last Saturday, where the very talented, 24-year-old Korean pianist Joyce Yang, a silver medalist at the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and a 2010 recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant, performed the very same work, the Concerto No. 2 by Rachmaninoff, that Lang Lang was to play. Yang offered a less flashy, more introspective, and perhaps more interesting performance of the work, a performance that obviously appealed to the vast majority of the audience, who responded with a spontaneous standing ovation—not bad for Yang, who quipped with the audience afterwards, before performing her delightful encore, the Earl Wild version of Gershwin’s “The Man That I Love,” that “24 hours ago, I thought that right about now I’d be sitting home, eating takeout.”

Every classical music lover has to hope that the BPO has more luck with Lang Lang than the organizers of Ramsi P. Tick concert series have had so far with pianist André Watts. Watts was scheduled to open the RPT series on October 22. He cancelled, not untypically, with at least some notice on this occasion. Watts then proceeded to cancel his re-scheduled appearance on November 22, with less than two days notice. With no time to get the word out, the RPT series organizers realized that they could not just postpone Watts’ appearance for a second time in a month. UB Slee Hall concert manager Phil Rehard, who also doubles as concert manager for the Tick series, has a deep list of the best contacts in the classical music world. Lo and behold, Rehard managed to engage the New York City-based touring classical pianist William Wolfram to substitute for Watts, on just 24 hours notice, in a free concert for ticket holders. Wolfram has become, no doubt very much to his surprise, something of a specialist in stepping in at the last moment to cover cancellations by André Watts. Several seasons ago, Wolfram made his BPO debut substituting for Watts.

Wolfram’s November recital was immensely appealing. He seemed just a touch shell-shocked by the experience, most evident in his heartfelt remarks made between the sensitively performed pieces by Chopin that comprised most of his program.

Watts’ performance has now been newly rescheduled for Sunday, March 13. Let’s hope that the old saying is true: the third time is the charm. It’s often difficult to get Watts to the piano bench, but once he is parked there, he has always delivered a great performance.

For more information, please call 759-4778 or visit

blog comments powered by Disqus