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Old Series, New Tricks

The Buffalo Chamber Music Society season opens strong with Concertante

The Buffalo Chamber Music Society launches its 86th season in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music on Tuesday, October 20 at 8pm, with the gala concert appearance of the sextet known as Concertante. The group is made up of a core of six virtuoso sting players, who perform in varied combinations of instrumentalists: Chinese violinist Xiao-Dong Wang, Israeli violinist Ittai Shapira, violist Rachel Shapiro, violist Ara Gregorian, cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach, and Israeli cellist Zvi Plesser. The members of Concertante have all won prizes as soloists in major international competitions and have performed on stages throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

The program for the BCMS opening night concert highlights Concertante’s dedication to the re-examination of less well known works by famous composers. In addition to the Sextet in B Flat Major Op.18 by Brahms, the program includes works by both Edward Elgar and Erich Korngold—composers whose works have never before appeared on a program in the 85-year history of the BCMS. Making its series debut, the Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20 (1892) is the earliest work by Elgar to have become well known, preceding his most famous work, the Enigma Variations, by six years. Elgar was himself a highly accomplished violinist; the celebrated concerto and sonata that he wrote for the violin rank high among his most personally characteristic works. Towards the end of his life, Elgar described the Serenade for Strings as the favorite of his works, including the piece on one of the last recordings that he made in the final year of his life.

While the Serenade for Strings is most often performed in the version for string orchestra, as in the case of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, the version of the work for sextet offers the charms of its own particular clarity.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) is the other composer making his BCMS debut, with the performance of his String Sextet in D Major, Op. 10. The son of an eminent music critic in Vienna, Korngold was a genuine wunderkind who at the age of 11 composed The Snowman, a ballet that created a sensation at the Vienna Court Opera, evoking a command performance for the Emperor Franz Josef. Described by Gustav Mahler as a “musical genius,” Korngold enjoyed a successful, critically acclaimed European career as a composer of orchestral music and operas throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Invited to Hollywood in 1934 by Max Reinhardt to compose a film score, Korngold became one of the pioneers in the composition of what became the standard kind of large, romantic, and rich film scores that are still considered classics to this day. Neglected for decades after his death, the music of Korngold has been undergoing a revival in popularity, with his lushly lyrical Violin Concerto now appearing regularly on concert programs. Composed by Korngold in 1914-1915 while he was still a teenager, the romantically influenced String Sextet was first performed in 1917.

Season tickets for the seven concert series are $95, $40 for students. Single tickets are $20, $10 for students. For information, call 462-4939 or visit

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