Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Who is Michael McKeever?
Next story: Here's to Blue Monk

Piano Rolls and Beethoven

Piano Rolls and Beethoven
The BPO offers a premiere while the Camerata lends a hand

Guest conductor David Lockington, who will be on the podium for this weekend’s Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s concerts on Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2:30pm first appeared as a BPO guest conductor 1998, when he led a memorable performance of the Verdi Requiem. There are only two works on the program, but this is more than enough, since one of the works is Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, one of the most original works in the entire classical music repertoire, while the other is Century Rolls, a concerto for piano by the contemporary American composer John Adams which will receive its BPO premiere played by the young American pianist Conrad Tao (pictured above), who will be making his BPO debut.

The works of John Adams, who was born in 1947, have appeared perhaps more frequently than those of any other contemporary composer on the BPO Classic Series programs. But, for the most part, he has been represented by works, such as The Chairman Dances and Lollapalooza, shorter pieces that have the irresistible appeal of ear candy. The one notable exception to that pattern featured the phenomenally gifted Midori as the soloist in his 1993 Violin Concerto, a performance that occurred, though it now seems hard to believe, as long ago as 2004, though to anyone who experienced that magical event it might just as well been yesterday. The many members of the audience that enjoyed Adams’ Violin Concerto will welcome the overdue BPO premiere of the composer’s next composition in the genre, Century Rolls, his concerto for piano.

As John Adams explains, he was inspired to compose his work in the best serendipitous tradition while “late one night, listening to a recording of old piano roll music from the 1920’s. Century Rolls, a concerto requested by my friend, Emanuel Ax, became in part an attempt to recreate that initial response I had received to the sound of the piano as heard via the medium of the piano roll. The concerto takes a kind of polymorphous-perverse pleasure in the whole past century of piano music, both popular and classical. In retrospect I see that it owes more than I realized not only to my own Grand Pianola Music (1982), but also to the early studies for player piano by Conlon Nancarrow. The last movement, “Hail Bop” (so named in honor of my misapprehension of the name of the comet, Hale-Bopp) is a kind of homage to Nancarrow’s peculiarly whimsical way of wedding American vernacular music to a spiky, disjunct rhythmic texture.”

It’s also very appropriate that the 21 year old Conrad Tao is making his BPO debut playing a masterpiece by a living composer. Besides being a highly lauded concert pianist who has already received an Avery Fisher Career Grant, Tao also enjoys an accomplished career as a composer, winning eight consecutive ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards.

Beethoven’s masterful Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, op 55, ‘Eroica’ is one of a handful of works that sounds fresh and new, no matter how often you may hear it performed live. It ushered in the ‘heroic period’ in Beethoven’s compositional life, and in many ways foreshadowed the following Romantic period in Classical music. The Eroica is almost twice the length of the final symphonies by Haydn and Mozart, a length which caused some initial consternation to contemporary audiences, but which showed the future of symphonic composition in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Information: 885-5000 or

Voices of Italy at the Camerata di Sant’Antonio

The Camerata di Sant’Antonio opens its new season with a performance on Friday October 23 at 7pm at a new venue, Parkside Lutheran Church on the corner of Parkside and Wallace in Buffalo. Last season, the group, under the leadership of its music director Christopher Weber, adopted a new method of operation that it calls “paying it forward.” Admission to their concerts is now by free will donation, with all money collected at the gate going to worthy causes like Mercy Flight, or Niagara Hospice. The money collected for this event will help serve the needs of the Buffalo String Works, an afterschool teaching program on the Lower West Side.

When violist Virginia Barron, who is also a WNED program host, and violinist Yuki Numata Resnick, a UB faculty member performed in the spring of 2013 at a free concert sponsored by the Friends of Vienna at Public School 45, they found the experience so rewarding that joined by Elise Golove, a music teacher at the school, they decided to start an afterschool music program. Now in its second year, the program has enjoyed remarkable success in bringing music into the lives of the pupils, many of them immigrants, living in an underserved neighborhood, enriching the lives of both the pupils and the many volunteers involved in this citizen driven project.

Friday’s program, a celebration of National Opera Week, features three vocalists. Soprano Colleen Marcello offers a triptych of popular Puccini arias: “Vissi d’arte” from Tosca, “Un bel di” from Madama Butterfly and the irresistible “O mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi. Contralto Suzanne Fatta is featured in the Western NY premiere of Vivaldi’s dramatic aria “Gelido in ogni vena” from his long lost 1727 opera Farnace, while Cory James Gallagher will offer “Con te partirò,” a song made famous by Andrea Bocelli. Antoine Lefebvre, principal second violin of BPO performs Tartini’s fiendishly difficult Devil’s Trill Sonata, a purely instrumental work which nevertheless has its own kind of operatic quality. BPO associate principal cellist Feng Hew and Donna Lorenzo, violist from the Solist Veneti, are featured in the local premiere of Roberto Molinelli’s Milonga para astor.

Admission by free will offering, $10 suggested donation.

blog comments powered by Disqus