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Remembering Leo Smit

A Musical Feast celebrates the late composer and pianist at the Burchfield-Pennery

Leo Smit at the piano. (photo by Irene Haupt)

When retired BPO concertmaster Charles Haupt started his chamber music ensemble a few years ago, it found a home in the Kavinoky Theater at D’Youville College. This season, the group has found a new home in the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium at the new Burchfield-Penney Art Center, where “A Musical Feast” now serves as the resident music ensemble. The new performing space has superior acoustics and ideal sight lines, as well as some of the most comfortable seating in town, making it one of the area’s best performing locations for classical music. The initial performance by AMF at the location occurred last February, when an overflow crowd attended a memorial concert for Lukas Foss.

Tonight (Thursday, November 19) at 7pm, the ensemble will continue its tradition of innovative programming with a concert entitled “Remembering Composer/Pianist Leo Smit.” The son of Russian immigrant parents—his father was an orchestral violinist—Leo Smit (1921-1999) moved to Buffalo in 1962 when he was appointed Slee Visiting Professor of Music at UB, later serving on the faculty from 1962 to 1984. His first professional engagement was as rehearsal pianist for George Balanchine’s American Ballet Company while still in his teens, where he also worked with Igor Stravinsky. He later became closely associated with Aaron Copland.

Smit’s brooding 1985 trio Tzadik, expressive of his Jewish heritage, will be performed by Charles Haupt (violin), Claudia Hoca (piano), and Jonathan Golove (cello). Hoca will also perform Dance Card, a four-movement suite that includes the “Tango Bolshoi” and the “Diabelli Polka.” Late in life, Smit composed more than 80 songs arranged in six cycles based on the poems of Emily Dickinson, and Hoca will accompany the rising young soprano Amanda DeBoer, who made a very strong impression in Lukas Foss’s Time Cycle last February, in the 1989 cycle Fourteen Songs About Memories and Fantasies of Childhood Poems. Jean Kopperud, who took part in a rare, complete performance of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time at UB last month, will perform the “Abyss of the Birds” movement for solo clarinet from that work. Smit’s recording of Zero Hour, by jazz pianist Pete Johnson (1904-1967), a close friend, will also be played.

Admission is free, reservations required. Call 878-6011 during gallery hours to reserve your free tickets.

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