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From Quebec With Love

Pianist Alain Lefevre.

The BPO debuts a rediscovered gem

BPO music director JoAnn Falletta will be on the podium at Kleinhans Music Hall for a pair of performances this Friday morning at 10:30am and Saturday at 8pm. The program begins with a rare BPO performance of Aaron Copland’s Dance Symphony, a work which made its only other Kleinhans appearance in 1968, with the composer himself appearing as conductor. Canadian pianist Alain Lefèvre will then make his BPO debut as soloist in the Piano Concerto No. 4 in E Minor by the Québécois composer André Mathieu, in what will be the first-ever BPO performance of a composition by a French Canadian composer. The second half of the concert will feature one of the most often programmed works in the orchestra’s repertoire, Mussorgsky’s popular Pictures at an Exhibition in the masterful orchestration by Maurice Ravel.

Born in Montreal in 1929 to parents who were music teachers—his father also composed and his mother was a cellist—André Mathieu was a prodigy who started to compose at the age of four, giving his first recital that included one of his own compositions when he was six. He was given a grant by the Quebec government that enabled him to go to Paris and study piano, composition and harmony in the 1930s, where his recitals received critical praise. When the outbreak of war prevented his return to France, he performed at concerts in Canada and the US, settling with his parents in New York City, where in 1941 he won the first prize at the composition competition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra when he was not yet twelve years old.

A post-war return to Paris to study with Arthur Honegger, among others, proved disappointing, and he started to teach while continuing to compose after returning to Montreal in 1947. The transition to adult life proved difficult for Mathieu, and after a short-lived marriage he was plagued by his alcoholism, dying suddenly at the young age of 39 in 1968.

Alain Lefèvre, the soloist for this concert, has become one of the most influential voices in the revival of André Mathieu legacy, no more so than in the case of Mathieu’s Piano Concerto No. 4, composed before his return to Quebec in 1947. Mathieu had played the work at all of his concerts from 1948 to 1955, but the score had disappeared. After a Quebec performance of Mathieu’s Concerto de Québec in 2005, Lefèvre was approached by a woman who said she had been the composer’s last girlfriend. She gave Lefèvre some vinyl records with Mathieu’s handwriting on the center labels, indicating that it was the solo piano version of his Piano Concerto No. 4.

Lefèvre asked the composer and conductor Gilles Bellemare, who was very familiar with Mathieu’s compositional style, to take down the entire work in musical dictation and devise a coherent piano and orchestral score, deciding what should be allocated to the piano, and what to the orchestra while determining the nature of the accompaniment and of the orchestration. The resulting reconstructed, listener-friendly concerto, which has been described as having a stylistic affinity to the concertos of Rachmaninoff, ultimately achieved its rebirth in 2008, with Lefèvre as soloist with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra under the baton of George Hanson.

For tickets and information, call 885-5000 or visit www.bpo.org.

A Gift to the Community

One of the best reasons to support the Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s long-running Tuesday evening chamber music concerts in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall is that subscriptions to series, along with individual ticket purchases, help pay for the free Sunday afternoon Gift to the Community Series offered by the Society. Clementina Fleshler, executive director of the Society, has consistently managed to discover young artists who have often gone on to high-profile professional careers, such as the violinist Tim Fain who brought his widely admired multi-media Portals to UB last weekend, and who first appeared in Buffalo on the Gift to the Community Series in 1999.

On Sunday, February 3 at 3pm, the young violist Veit Hertenstein, who has gained critical acclaim for his technical skill, colorful sound and intelligent interpretations, will make his Buffalo debut in the Mary Seaton Room. Born in 1985 in Augsburg, Germany, he began studying the violin and the piano at the age of five before he switched to the viola when he was 15. A 2011 winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, Veit is currently solo violist in the Basel Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland.

Recitals by violists are not very common in the Buffalo area, but lucky concert-goers will have the rare opportunity to hear two of them almost back-to-back, when BPO violist Kate Holzemer makes her debut on the Friends of Vienna series at 3:30pm on the following Sunday, February 10.

For more information, visit www.bflochambermusic.org.

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