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Classical Music Countdown

Conductor JoAnne Falletta (photo by David Adam Beloff)

The late summer classical music doldrums are about to end

While summer in the Buffalo area offers the local classical music lover many opportunities to enjoy live performances of classical music at venues including June in Buffalo, the Roycroft Chamber Music Festival, Chamber Music on Elmwood, the BPO, both at Artpark and this year at Kleinhans, the Chautauqua Institution and just over the border at the Music Niagara Festival in Niagara-on-the-lake, after the beginning of August the spigot runs dry. That is about to soon change, as the fall music season begins to get under way. Here are some of the highlights.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra opens its season with the traditional opening night gala, on Saturday, September 22 at 8pm, when James Galway, arguably the highest profile flutist on the planet returns, to perform as soloist in a pair of popular works that he performed with the orchestra back in 2008. Galway is the soloist in Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 in D major, and he will be joined by his wife flutist Jeanne Galway, in David Overton’s work The Magic Flutes, a tour de force flute medley of dozens of Mozart fragments, that the composer describes as “a journey through Mozart.” The appointment last spring of BPO music director JoAnn Falletta as principal conductor of the Belfast-based Ulster Orchestra may have been a factor in the selection of the last work on the program, An Irish Symphony, by Hamilton Harty, a first performance by the BPO. The Times of London praised the symphony, enthusiastically received at its 1904 premiere, as “a work of much promise. It has many ideas, always freshly expressed, and the airs are developed with more than common variety and beauty.”

Pianist Joyce Yang won the hearts of BPO audience members went she offered a thrilling performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, as a literally last minute substitute for an ailing Lang Lang. She returns as the soloist in Beethoven’s mighty Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”) in a pair of concerts on Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7, that includes Gershwin’s Catfish Row and his Strike up the Band overture, as well as Gliére’s Overture to Gyul’sara.

Guest conductor Hugh Wolf will be on the podium on Saturday October 20 and Sunday October 21 for a performance of Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 and Debussy’s “Rondes de Printemps” from Images. Violinist Alexandre da Costa makes his BPO debut in American composer Michael Daugherty’s Fire and Blood Concerto in the work’s BPO premiere.

JoAnn Falletta returns to the podium on Friday, November 2 and Saturday, November 3, for an all Shostakovich program featuring American pianist Michael Boriskin as soloist in the Piano Concerto No. 2 and Russian bass Mikhail Svetlov in the powerful Symphony No. 13 (“Babi Yar”) based on the powerful poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who will be an honored guest at these performances.

The Friday November 16 and Saturday November 17 concerts under Falletta’s baton features the members of the BPO trombone section, led by principal Jonathan Lombardo, in the world premiere of Eric Ewazen’s Triple Trombone Concerto, as well as two popular symphonies, Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 (“Classical”) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, once famously described by composer Richard Wagner as “the apotheosis of the dance,” due to its very lively dance rhythms.

The rising young British-American conductor Sarah Ioannides will be on the podium on Friday December 1 and Saturday December 2 in a program featuring cellist Zuill Bailey, a BPO audience favorite, in Haydn’s popular Cello Concerto No. 1, as well as Mendelssohn’s effervescent Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream, Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances from his opera Prince Igor and Schubert’s enigmatic Symphony No. 8 (“Unfinished”).

The venerable Buffalo Chamber Music Society opens its Tuesday evening season in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall on October 2 at 8pm, with a performance by the American Chamber Players. Now in its 89th season, the BCMS is one of the two oldest chamber music societies in America, and it continues to offer one of the best subscription ticket values in Western New York, offering seven concerts featuring both nationally and internationally touring artists of the highest caliber for a very low price, with an even more favorable rate for students.

In 1985, violist Miles Hoffman founded the American Chamber Players, praised by the Washington Post for having “established standards of chamber music performance equal to any in the world,” and its combination of instrumentalists—Hoffman, violinist Joanna Maurer, cellist Stephen Balderston, flutist Sara Stern, clarinetist Loren Kitt, and pianist Anna Stoytcheva—allows the group the versatility to offer wide-ranging programs involving unusual instrumental combinations. As the Baltimore Sun has noted “One had to admire not only the courage of their programming, but also their performances, which were intense, passionate and accurate.”

Formed by four close friends in France in 2003, the Modigliani Quartet will make Buffalo a stop on its seven-venue American tour on October 30. The young members of the group quickly won several high profile international competitions, including the prestigious Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York City. In a review of a recent concert by the Modigliani Quartet, The Strad magazine, recognized worldwide as the leading periodical for all things relating to classical string instrument playing, described it as “a gripping and persuasive performance, played with awesome individual and communal brilliance.”

In what may be a first for this series, a recorder quartet will take the stage on November 27, a welcome treat for area early music fans, and the one area of classical music that is most underrepresented on local concert series. The Belgium Flanders Recorder Quartet travels with more than several dozen different sized and hence voiced recorders, allowing them to present the kind of performance described by the New York Times where “the players swayed and swooned, combining the breathy timbre of a portative organ with the expressive interplay of a fine string quartet.”

The other artists appearing in the series include the Escher Quartet, the Claremont Trio, the Czech Pavel Hass Quartet, and finally the Emerson Quartet, perhaps the finest of all American string quartets now performing.

The BCMS also sponsors three Gift to the Community Recitals on Sunday afternoons with free admission. The first event in the series at 3pm on Sunday September 30 features violinist Paul Huang in what will be a preview of his New York debut recital.

Subscriptions for the seven concert season are $100, $40; single tickets are $20, $10 for students. For more information, visit www.bflochambermusic.org.

On September 16 at 3:30pm, the Friends of Vienna open their Sunday afternoon six-concert, 37th season at their home in the Unity Church (1243 Delaware Avenue). The FOV have long made it a tradition to present innovatively programmed concerts by the best locally based musical artists, in a genuine chamber music setting, at the lowest ticket prices in town.

The September 16 concert will feature BPO principal clarinetist John Fullam and UB-based pianist Nancy Townsend along with the rising young soprano Emily Helenbrook. Fullam and Townsend will present a pair of rarely programmed works by the German composer Max Reger, including the Sonata No. 1 in A flat, op. 49 and the brief, but powerful Four Pieces, op. 5 by Alban Berg. Helenbrook, who is now studying at the Eastman School in Rochester, will be joined by Fullam and Townsend for a performance of Franz Schubert’s meltingly lovely The Shepherd on the Rock, while the program will conclude with Fullam and Helenbrook performing Three Vocalises for Soprano and B flat Clarinet, the last work composed by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The October 16 concert will feature a first for this long-lived series, a performance of early music by a viola da gamba quartet. The internationally based York Quartet is made up of two American members, including Nancy Nuzzo, the head music librarian at UB, and two Canadian members, and they offer the rare opportunity to hear a live viola da gamba quartet performance locally.

Now a professor of piano at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, pianist Susan Yondt has deep family roots in the Buffalo area, and she makes a welcome return to the FOV series on November 18, when she performs an all-Debussy program in honor of this year’s sesquicentennial of the birth of the French composer. Yondt’s enthusiastically received recital celebrating the bicentennial of Chopin and Schumann a couple of seasons back was standing room only.

Remaining concerts on the FOV series will feature BPO violist Kate Holzemer and friends from the Clara String Quartet, soprano Colleen Marcello with pianist Roland Martin, and BPO violinist Loren Silvertrust and Eastman pianist Alison d’Amato.

For more information, visit www.friendsofvienna.org. Subscriptions for all six concerts are $40; individual tickets are $10, $6 for students.

Under the leadership of artistic director, BPO violist Janz Castelo, the Buffalo Chamber Players have earned a well-deserved reputation for innovative programming of both under-performed and rare works.

The group opens its season at its home in the Buffalo Seminary, on Bidwell Parkway in Buffalo, on Wednesday, October 24 at 7:30pm, with a performance of two milestone works by Arnold Schoenberg, including his early masterpiece, Verklärte Nacht, in its original version for string sextet. Schoenberg’s groundbreaking chamber work Pierrot Lunaire will be presented in celebration of that work’s 100th anniversary with projections created for the performance by Buffalo-based visual artist Mark Lavatelli.

Remaining concerts in the series will offer operatic settings of two texts by William Butler Yeats: John Harbison’s 1977 one-act opera Full Moon in March and Buffalo composer Roland Martin’s The Cat and the Moon, a world premiere; a concert of music by contemporary composers in our region, curated by the group’s composer-in-residence Rob Deemer; and a program featuring John Harbison’s piano quartet tribute to Franz Schubert, November 18,1828, and one of the masterworks of the chamber music repertoire, Schubert’s monumental String Quintet in C.

For tickets and information, call 462-5659 or visit www.buffalochamberplayers.org

The opening concert of the 2012-2013 A Musical Feast season takes place Friday, November 9 at 8pm, in the group’s home in the Tower Auditorium of the Burchfield Penny Art Center. The concert, billed as Amblongus Pie: Dance, Music, Verse and Song, features a potpourri of pieces, featuring several works by that quintessential American maverick, John Cage. Chicago-based mezzo soprano Julia Bentley, who has dazzled local audiences both in this series and at UB, is featured in three works, including Cage’s Five Songs for Contralto and Piano on texts by ee cummings, accompanied by pianist Kuang-Hao Huang. Bentley and Huang will also perform the composer’s Four Dances, as interpreted by dancers from the LehrerDance Company, as well as French composer André Caplet’s 1919 settings of Trois fables de Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695). Bentley and Huang return for Souvenirs of Childhood, a setting by Oskar Morawetz of poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, while to celebrate the bicentennial of Edward Lear, Bentley will offer Nonsense Cookery, Lear Recipes from Nonsense Gazette. Rounding out the program is Buffalo-based composer John Bacon’s The Electronic Playground, for percussion and electronics.

Remaining concerts in the series will include one featuring Eastman violinist Charles Castleman in Ysaÿe’s Poème élégiaque and UB cellist Jonathan Golove in works by Stravinsky and Piazzolla, all accompanied by BPO pianist Claudia Hoca. Making a welcome return to the series, internationally touring bass trombonist David Taylor is featured in the final concert which includes a rare performance of Stockhausen’s Signs of the Zodiac.

For more information, visit www.amusicalfeast.com.

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