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A BPO Premiere at Canisius and the UB Symphony opens its season

Whistler Waves and a Finnfest Postscript
A BPO premiere at Canisius and the UB Symphony opens its season

Feng Hew

The BPO will visit the Montante Cultural Center of Canisius College on Tuesday (11/3) at 7:30pm when music director JoAnn Falletta will lead the orchestra in a program that includes the world premiere of Whistler Waves, a work for cello and orchestra by the nationally recognized, Buffalo-based composer Caroline Mallonée which features BPO associate principal cellist Feng Hew as soloist. The concert will also feature the voices of the Canisius Chorale in two works by Mendelssohn, “I Waited for the Lord” from Hymn of Praise and “Verleih’ uns Frieden” (Da Nobis Pacem), as well as Buxtehude’s “Befiehl dem Engel, dass er komm”, with a performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 38, “Prague.”

“I first met Feng Hew in 2011,” says Mallonée. “Feng had played several concertos with the Camerata di Sant’Antonio, of which she is a member, in the past, and lamented to me that there weren’t more pieces for cello and strings. She asked me to write a new 15-minute piece for her. Whistler Waves for Cello and Strings was premiered in April 2013 with Christopher Weber conducting the Camerata. Whistler Waves are audible frequencies produced in the atmosphere after a bolt of lightning. There are four types of whistler waves, and I found their names, not to mention their sounds, very inspirational: Pure Note, Diffuse, Echo Train and Two Hop. The use of harmonic glissandi characterizes the first movement, the second movement has a fuzzy texture, in the third movement, threads of the cello’s melodies are echoed in the orchestra, and the piece ends with a dance.”

“Feng brought the smaller piece to JoAnn Falletta’s attention,” says Mallonée, “and we worked together with the BPO to commission a new version for cello and orchestra. I’ve expanded the piece quite a bit—it is 20 minutes long now and takes advantage of the vast palette of the orchestra. I’ve added triple winds, two percussionists and timpani. The added instruments enhance the ideas of the piece and complement the effects in the strings. The audience will hear other-worldly effects from all the instruments, which serve to illustrate the waves and whistles while highlighting the virtuosity of the solo cello. The ‘seagull effect’ in the strings, sizzle cymbal rolls, gentle tam-tam hits, literal whistling as well as imitations of whistling, even a slide whistle, are evocative and atmospheric sounds and techniques found in this piece.”

“I think audience members who know my work will recognize my style in this piece. It is ethereal at times, and plaintive, but also experimental in its timbral choices. I love to write for strings—I play the violin myself—and I think that my joy is probably audible. Both the original piece for the Camerata and the new piece for the BPO afforded me the opportunity to write for dedicated and talented musicians in my own community.

Information and tickets: (716) 888-2536

“Bridges Across Centuries” a Finnfest Postscript at UB

The UB Symphony Orchestra will open its fall season on Monday (11/2) at 7:30pm in Slee Hall on the Amherst Campus with a concert featuring the music of Sibelius. The orchestra’s music director Daniel Bassin designed the program to give an overview of the composer’s career. It will begin with a performance of Finlandia, his wildly popular early work from 1900, which will be followed by the orchestral version of the Andante Festivo, originally written in 1922 as a movement for string quartet, but later arranged by the composer, as one of his last works, for string orchestra and timpani for a radio broadcast from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Bassin will end the program with a rare performance of the composer’s Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52, a work that the BPO has only performed once, back in 1997 with Buffalo native Michael Christie as guest conductor.

“I chose to include the Third Symphony due to where it lies within Sibelius’s development of his mature symphonic voice,” says Bassin. “In the Third Symphony, Sibelius makes a notable departure from the highly romantic sound-worlds, and the seemingly heart-on-the-sleeve rhetoric of his first two symphonies and other early tone poems. The Third could easily be claimed as one of Sibelius’s most enigmatic works, and its features immediately draw a range of contradictory attributes: it is almost neoclassical, but also frequently richly expressive, and with the pay-off of unmitigated catharsis in each movement. Along with the Fifth, Sibelius has reduced his symphonic argument to include only three movements, but like that work, which was originally cast in four movements, this work includes a sprawling hyper-movement, here the finale. There are an assortment of strange, powerfully-moving, and occasionally disturbing sounds and orchestra effects throughout the work, reminiscent of the leading works of the Second Viennese School, which Sibelius felt were his chief modernist competition.

The sole non-Sibelius work on the program is Bridges a 2014 work for orchestra by American composer James Romig. Bassin says “We’re deeply excited to present its New York premiere performance. It should come as no surprise that I first met Jake Romig and became aware of his music thanks to UB’S Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music. We began talking about music and specifically about the practical challenges of writing for orchestra in a contemporary context, while I was a PhD composition student at UB where Jake had presented his work to our composition seminar. Bridges not only gives our concert its title, but it also provides a frame for the remarkable legacy of Sibelius, which helps to better place his work into the broader context of contemporary music for orchestra. The overall effect of Bridges is one of vastness, spaciousness, and an emotive impact that is as tangible yet as difficult to pinpoint as in the Sibelius masterworks.”

Admission is free. Information:

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