Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Stagefright
Next story: Oldboy and The Book Thief

Christmas is Still Coming

Joanne Castellani and Michael Andriaccio join the BPO for the Classic Christmas concerts.

Rushing the season accelerates apace

This year Christmas, as it always has, and as it always will, occurs on December 25. Yet there seems to be an inevitable, ongoing seasonal creep that has resulted in the ever-increasing scheduling of major Christmas music celebrations during the last weekend in November.

Thanksgiving, which along with Independence Day is the most American of all the holidays that we celebrate as a nation in the United States, has up to this point remained as a secure firewall against the encroachment of the Christmas holiday. Yet this year, the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus’s traditional offering of Handel’s Messiah, perhaps the classical music work most closely associated with the Christmas season, was already presented last Sunday, joining the BPO and the Neglia Ballet’s performances of The Nutcracker at Shea’s and Nickel City Opera’s performances of Amahl and the Night Visitors at the Riviera, on the weekend following Thanksgiving Day.

One can only hope that the seemingly overwhelming commercial forces driving the national frenzy of holiday shopping ever earlier into November will continue to founder on the Plymouth Rock of Thanksgiving, and that the musical celebration of Christmas will continue to find its proper home during the month of December. Be that as it may, numerous opportunities remain to enjoy live performances of classical Christmas music in the area.

BPO Classic Christmas

In the not-to-be-missed category are the BPO’s two offerings of their Classic Christmas program in Kleinhans Music Hall on Friday, December 6 at 10:30am and on Saturday, December 7 at 8pm. During the past several holiday seasons, BPO music director JoAnn Falletta would conduct this pair of more traditional classical music concerts, while associate conductor Matthew Kraemer would conduct the Holiday Pops concerts. Reversing the conducting roles, former BPO associate conductor Ron Spigelman returns to conduct the Classic Christmas concerts while JoAnn Falletta will handle the Holiday Pops duties.

In addition to such seasonal favorites as selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, Handel’s Messiah, and Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, the concerts will feature the Buffalo-based, world touring Castellani Andriaccio Duo, guitars as special guest artists in a performance of Vivaldi’s Concerto in G major for Two Mandolins and Orchestra, R. 532.

When asked about the challenges of performing a work originally composed for mandolins on guitars, Michael Andriaccio, who with his wife Joanne Castellani make up the duo, replied, “It’s not really a challenge, as the mandolin and guitar are both plucked instruments. The mandolin, however, is tuned like a violin, in fifths, whereas the guitar is tuned primarily in fourths, but that is not an issue. The mandolins tend to have a brighter, more penetrating sound, but the guitars lend a warm sensuality to the piece. It is a terrific concerto—so Italian and so very Venetian. with all of that characteristic antiphonal writing so indigenous to Venetian baroque composition. The Church of San Marco has two opposing choir lofts and the Gabrielli brothers took advantage of this to create the dialogue so typical of Venetian baroque music. Vivaldi was the music director at an all women’s school so he adapted, transcribed and arranged just about all of his music to accommodate whoever needed to be a soloist any given week. This concerto was obviously written for two mandolin players of equal ability as neither part takes on an accompaniment role. It was even performed on two lutes in Vivaldi’s time and it is a real gem.

“We have performed the Vivaldi many, many times” Andriaccio continues, “and we recorded it in Tel Aviv with the Israel Chamber Orchestra, Arie Lipsky conducting. We have performed and recorded on the same CD the Alessandro Marcello concerto for oboe, which we arranged for two guitars along with a concerto that American composer Roberto Sierra presented us, the Fantasia Corelliana, a contemporary, baroque-inspired concerto that he wrote for our 25h anniversary as a duo.”

BPO Holiday Pops

Falletta will be on the podium for all four Holiday Pops concerts this year, with two concerts scheduled for Friday, December 13 at 10:30am and at 8pm, with another concert on Saturday, December 14 at 8pm with the final performance on Sunday, December 15 at 2:30pm. The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus figures prominently in this year’s program along with a revolving cast of several different local high school choruses. Soprano Michele Ragusa, Buffalo’s favorite singer on the boards of the Great White Way, is the featured performer in a program that leans heavily on the Christmas musical traditions of Broadway.

The Freudig Singers

The Christmas Pie concerts by the Freudig Singers have become a holiday tradition. This year’s events take place on Friday, December 6 at 7:30pm in St. Matthias Episcopal Church (374 Main Street, East Aurora) and on Sunday, December 8 at 3pm in Blessed Trinity Roman Catholic Church (317 Leroy Avenue, Buffalo). Music director Roland Martin will be accompanied by Patrick Davis. Along with traditional Christmas favorites, the singers will perform a new work, Gabriel’s Message, composed especially for them by Sidney King from the University of Louisville School of Music. Mr. King, a double-bassist, will perform the piece as well as his setting of Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming. As always with the Christmas Pie concerts, while the music will serve to celebrate the beauty of the season, its robustness will not be overlooked, and there will be free pie and beverages for everyone immediately following the performance. Suggested donation: $10. Information: 472-0009.

Vocalis Chamber Choir

On Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 8pm, the Vocalis Chamber Choir presents its annual Christmas concert at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum at Elmwood and North Streets in Buffalo, with a second performance at 4pm on Sunday, December 8 at Our Lady Help of Christians Church (4125 Union Road, Cheektowaga). In addition to works by Victoria, Sheppard, Lauridsen, and Willan, as well as traditional settings of “Silent Night,” “What Child Is This?” and “Deck the Halls,” the program will feature a new work by the young, currently Buffalo-based composer Caroline Mallonée.

“My new work was commissioned by Garrison Keillor,” says Mallonée “and it was premiered last December 22 on his popular radio show A Prairie Home Companion. A resetting of the antiphon Hodie Christus Natus Est, I called my version Hodie Christus Natus Est/Today on Earth, and it combines the original chant with a new carol. Originally written for the DiGiallonardo sisters and the show’s All-Star Shoe Band, I arranged it this fall for SATB chorus, so this performance will be the premiere of the choral version.

“Back when I was 14, I had entered a contest on the show to write a new Christmas carol. The piece that I submitted, “The Carolers at My Door,” won the contest, and was published by Boosey & Hawkes and has since been performed on the show lots of times, and has also been done all over the country.”

Hot cider and refreshm-ents will be served at intermission. Tickets are $15, $10 for students, 12 and under free.

Camerata di Sant’Antonio

Christopher Weber, founder and music director of the musically refined string chamber ensemble known as the Camerata di Sant’Antonio, has made it his mission to expand the current chamber music repertoire, both by giving contemporary composers a forum to present new works, and by reaching back into the deep archives of the classical music tradition to resurrect unjustly neglected older works. The Camerata’s concert on Sunday, December 8 at 7pm at St. Anthony of Padua’s R.C. Church, 160 Court Street, behind Buffalo City Hall continues its tradition of blending the well-known with the obscure, while celebrating Christmas along with the Canisius College Chorale and the St. Louis R. C. Choir, choral director Frank Scinta. The program includes the Concerto Grosso No. 3 in C minor, Opus 6, No. 3 by Archangelo Corelli featuring soloists Shieh Jian Tsai, Nadejda Nigrin and Feng Hew. Antonio Vivaldi’s setting of Psalm 111, Beatus vir, RV 598 for chorus, strings and basso continuo will feature soloists Jena Abati and Emily DiMartino. The program concludes with the area premier of the Serenade for Strings, Op. 12, an immediately accessible work in a Brahmsian mode, by Victor Herbert, a composer best known for his popular Broadway operettas.

Tickets are $17; 12 and under free. Information: 856-3626.

blog comments powered by Disqus