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From Russia to Sweden to Buffalo

Pianist Susan Yondt returns

The Friends of Vienna are happy to welcome back Susan Yondt, professor of piano at the Swedish Royal Conservatory of Music, for a recital of Russian music on Sunday, November 23 at 3:30pm at the Unity Church, 1243 Delaware in Buffalo. Yondt will offer a rare, complete performance of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, op. 37a, as well as selections from Alexander Borodin’s Petite Suite.

The editor of the Nouvellist, a St. Petersburg music magazine, commissioned Tchaikovsky to write twelve short piano pieces, one for each month of the year of 1876. He also suggested a poetic epigraph for every month’s piece selected from the works of a Russian author, such as Pushkin, or Tolstoy, and Yondt will read translations of these brief poems before playing each piece. “I think the pieces for each month in The Seasons by Tchaikovsky are beautiful and unique”, says Yondt. “Critics sometimes object that he wrote them for money and therefore didn’t put his heart into them, but I tend to disagree. His compositions contain lovely melodies like the June ‘Barcarolle’ and the melancholy October ‘Autumn Song.’ Pieces like the February ‘Carnival’ and the December ‘Christmas’ could have been written for the ballet. Virtuosity is not lacking either, as found in the August ‘Harvest’ song and September ‘Hunt’ song. I find playing the pieces as a set very satisfying, as I somehow experience a whole year of scenes and emotions.”

Alexander Borodin, the illegitimate son of a Russian nobleman, had a remarkable career, both as a physician and a professor of chemistry, with musical composition as a secondary avocation. Yet he managed to compose a successful opera, Prince Igor, along with a pair of symphonies and a handful of chamber works, as well as The Petite Suite, his only significant work for piano. “As to Borodin,” says Yondt, “I like the fact that he was a contemporary of Tchaikovsky and that they both write in the Romantic style. I’m also very interested in playing music which is seldom heard at concerts; maybe it’s the teacher in me, wanting to provide my audiences with new listening experiences. I love Borodin’s Petite Suite, especially the very poetic opening, ‘The Monastery,’ and I feel that the two composers complement each other very well.” Listeners may recognize the music of the “Serenade” movement, based on one of the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor, later used for the song “Stranger in Paradise” in Kismet.

Tickets: $10, $5 students.


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Dialogues of the Carmelites at OPERA SACRA

To mark the opening anniversary of its 40th season, OPERA SACRA will present a fully-staged production of Francois Poulenc’s 1956 opera Dialogues des carmélites at 7:30pm on Friday November 21 and Saturday November 22 at St. Joseph University Church, 3269 Main Street, adjacent to the UB South Campus. The company, the oldest continually producing opera company in Western New York, presented Dialogue of the Carmelites during its inaugural season in 1975, mounting a second production ten years later. It has not been presented in Western New York in over thirty years. Father Jacob Ledwon, founding artistic director of the company says “I can think of no better way to celebrate the forty years of OPERA SACRA’s artistic achievements then going back to the beginning and presenting this unique piece again. It should be a thrilling performance.”

In June, 1794 during what proved to be the waning days of the Reign of Terror in Revolutionary France, 16 nuns from a Carmelite convent in Compiègne, 50 miles northeast of Paris were arrested and taken to Paris. Condemned as traitors for refusing to obey the dictates of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy which had abolished all monastic orders, they were guillotined at the Barrière de Vincennes on July 17. Georges Bernanos, a French Catholic, wrote a play about the tragedy that became the basis for Poulenc’s libretto, the foundation for his searingly effective psychological masterpiece.

Colleen Marcello and Amy Grable, coloratura sopranos who vividly brought their vocal roles of Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, to life in OPERA SACRA’s 2012 production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, will sing the principal roles of Blanche and Sister Constance. Laurie Tramuta will sing the role of Mother Marie, with Suzanne Fatta as Madame Croissy, the First Prioress, and Cristen Gregory as Madame Lidoine, the Second Prioress.Tom Doyle will sing the role of Blanche’s father, the Marquis de la Force and Ethan Depuy her brother, the Chevalier de la Force. Roland E. Martin will conduct the forty plus orchestral musicians and the two choruses, one of thirteen nuns and a second, sixteen voice chorus representing the revolutionary mob.

Suggested donation: $20/$15 seniors. Patron: $50/Benefactor: $100 includes preferred seating and an artist reception. Information: 833-0298.

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