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Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v9n35 (09/02/2010) » Fall Arts: Classical Music

Fall Classics

Violinist Midori performs at the BPO's opening night gala on October 2.

Premieres, old favorites, and new energy mark this year's classical music season

It’s September, students are going back to school, and while there are still a few weeks of summer left on the calendar, the fall classical music season is about to swing into high gear. Here are some of the highlights of a very full autumn of classical music.

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

The opening night gala on Saturday, October 2 in Kleinhans Music Hall features the return of Midori, a BPO audience favorite, as the orchestra celebrates its 75th anniversary season. The former child prodigy, who is currently touring extensively in Europe, will play the hugely popular Tchaikovsky Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 35 under the baton of BPO Music Director JoAnne Falletta, who has also programmed Prokofiev’s Cinderella Suite. The BPO will begin the concert with a performance of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, the first piece played by the orchestra 75 years ago.

The “Lovers’ Classics” concerts on October 8 and 9 will feature Chen and He’s Butterfly Lovers Concerto for Violin with Tianwa Yang on violin, as well as excerpts from Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet, and a BPO premiere: the Suite No. 1 from Antony and Cleopatra by Florent Schmitt. On October 23 and 24, “From Poland with Love” features the young and stylish Canadian pianist Berenika, who will perform the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2, while Falletta conducts Lutoslawski’s sonically exciting Concerto for Orchestra and the BPO premiere of Karlowicz’s symphonic poem A Sad Tale. Distinguished guest conductor Leon Botstein, president of Bard College since 1975, who also serves as music director and principal conductor of both the American Symphony Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, takes the podium on November 6 and 7; the program features the BPO Chorus in two works by Brahms: Nanie and Schicksalslied (“Song of Destiny”) as well as Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3. The November 19 and 20 concerts feature the music of Gershwin, including the Concerto in F, with Orion Weiss, as piano soloist, and the Second Rhapsody, as well as William Schuman’s New England Triptych making its long overdue BPO premiere. The December 4 and 5 concerts feature another Buffalo audience favorite, Lynn Harrell, in Elgar’s Concerto for Cello; the Symphony No. 4 by Brahms; and the critically acclaimed, post-Impressionistic Isle of Bliss, by contemporary Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, in yet another BPO premiere.

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Buffalo Chamber Players

Since its formation in 2007 by BPO violist Janz Castelo, the Buffalo Chamber Players have created a unique niche for themselves in the area classical music scene in their home base at the Buffalo Seminary. Realizing that local audiences have many opportunities to hear the string quartet literature played by the finest quartets on the BCMS series and on the Slee series at UB, the group, made up of BPO musicians and top free-lancers, decided to concentrate on offering music for various combinations of instruments that are infrequently performed by touring groups due to logistical challenges. The group’s ambitious recreation in 2009 of a 1951 production of a staged version of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat was just one example of their creative range.

The Buffalo Chamber Players have also explored the intersection of music and visual art in their continuing collaboration with the celebrated Buffalo artist Catherine Parker. Parker has produced several notable cycles of paintings inspired by classical compositions, with projected images of the original paintings appearing during the work’s performance.

The BCP open their season on October 6 at 7:30pm with one of the genuinely unique works in the entire classical chamber music repertoire, the Quatuor pour la fin du temps (“Quartet for the End of Time”) by Olivier Messiaen. This transcendent work was composed and first performed in 1941, when Messiaen was a prisoner of war in a German stalag. It will be performed by Shieh-Jian Tsai on violin, Robert Alemany on clarinet, Feng Hew on cello, and Alison d’Amato on piano.

On November 10, the BCP concert will feature an all wind program, with works by Barber, Beethoven, Mozart, and others.

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Buffalo Chamber Music Society

Celebrating its 87th season, the Buffalo Chamber Music Society is one of the two oldest, continually operating chamber music groups in America. The BCMS has a long and proud tradition of being the presenter of the finest touring chamber musicians in Western New York, with a decided emphasis on string quartets. The society’s Tuesday night series in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall is noted for presenting top nationally known artists at prices that are a fraction of those in other metropolitan areas, especially to season subscribers.

The BCMS season opens on October 12 with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the premier chamber music presenting organization in America. The musicians—Ani Kavafian, Ida Kavafian, violins; Mark Holloway, Paul Neubauer, violas; Nicholas Canellakis, cello; and David Shifrin, clarinet—will perform three quintets: Mozart’s Viola Quintet in E-flat Major, K. 614, Mendelssohn’s Viola Quintet in A Major, Op. 18, and Brahms’ elegiac Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115.

The Prague-based Prazak Quartet will make its fifth appearance on the BCMS series on November 2, in an all Czech program that includes the Quartet No. 2 by Frantisek Adam Mica, Bohuslav Martinu’s Quartet No. 6, and Dvorak’s Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 51.

The youthful members of the Parker String Quartet make their first appearance on the series on December 7. The quartet, which began its professional touring career in 2002 and was recently awarded the prestigious 2009-2011 Cleveland Quartet Award, will perform Haydn’s Quartet in C Major, Op. 20, No. 2; Beethoven’s Quartet in C Sharp Minor, Op. 131, and György Ligeti’s Quartet No.1 (“Metamorphoses Nocturnes”).

The BCMS also sponsors three “Gift to the Community” recitals on Sunday afternoons with free admission. The first event in the series on September 26 event is especially noteworthy, as it will feature the very young violinist Carolyn Goulding, who won the hearts of the BPO audience with her exquisite performance of the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5 this past January.

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Ramsi P. Tick Concert Series

Last year the Ramsi P. Tick concert series made a very successful transition to its new home on the Nichols School campus. The Flickinger Center Auditorium has proven to be an ideal setting to hear the world-class artists featured on the series, both for audience comfort and acoustic clarity. The last season gave the Buffalo audience their first opportunity to hear both the elusive Rumanian born pianist Radu Lupu, and the young American violinist Jennifer Koh, who will herself appear for the first time next spring with the BPO. The organizers of the Tick series have made it solely a subscription series from its inception in 2001 in an effort to keep the administrative cost of attracting world class artists manageable; individual tickets are not available.

The Ramsi P. Tick series opens on October 22, with a performance by legendary American pianist André Watts, who has dazzled audiences since his debut with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 16 under Leonard Bernstein more than 40 years ago, and who delivered a dynamically memorable performance of the Beethoven Emperor Concerto in his last appearance with the BPO in 2009.

Greek violin virtuoso Leonidas Kavakos makes his Buffalo debut on February 8, while a series favorite, Chanticleer, the San Francisco Bay area male vocal ensemble, returns on April 14. Husband and wife, David Finckel (cello) and Wu Han (piano) make their first joint Buffalo appearance in the last event in the series on April 26. The couple also serves as joint artistic directors for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center—the group that will open the BCMS season—and Finckel is very familiar to local audiences as the cellist of the Emerson String Quartet.

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Friends of Vienna

The long-running Friends of Vienna series had almost expired at the end of the 2008-2009 season, when a new board of directors under the leadership of artistic director Mary Kay Atlas stepped forward to keep the venerable series ongoing. Last year’s abbreviated, four-concert season proved to be one of the group’s most successful in recent years, with the result being an expanded six-concert series for its current 35th season.

The Friends of Vienna continues its long tradition of presenting chamber music concerts that feature the best classical musicians in Western New York at the lowest ticket prices in the area, with additional substantial savings for season subscribers. The Sunday afternoon series at the Unity Church on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo kicks off on October 17 with a fortepiano recital by Karen Schmid, a faculty member at Canisius College, who will perform a program of works by the masters of the Viennese classical style: Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. The program includes a pair of Haydn sonatas, as well as Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor, K. 397 and his Sonata in A Major, K. 331, with the well-known “Turkish Rondo” finale, and Beethoven’s Sonata No. 18 in E Flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3.

The November 14 concert features the K2 Violin Duo, who are the BPO violinists Frances Kaye and Richard Kay. Their program includes violin duos by Boccherini, Mozart, and Bartok; they will be joined by pianist Paul Ferington for a rare performance of Moritz Moszkowski’s Suite in G Minor for 2 Violins and Piano, Op. 71. A concert on December 12 will feature the Rockwell Brass.

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A Musical Feast

When Charles Haupt retired some years ago, after his distinguished 37-year career as BPO concertmaster, he chose not to rest on his laurels. Besides continuing as a faculty member at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, Haupt launched a new chamber music series in 2006 that he called “A Musical Feast.” After performing for the first few years of its existence at the Kavinoky Theatre, the group moved to its new home in the recently built Burchfield Penny Art Center. Last year, A Musical Feast was named the ensemble-in-residence of the Burchfield Penny and it will perform all three of this season’s concerts in the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium, an acoustically superior performance space that has what is probably the most comfortable seating in the area.

One of the goals of A Musical Feast is to provide concert programs that offer the best of both the old and the new, and the first concert on Sunday November 14 offers an intriguing blend of both. Claudia Hoca on piano and Jonathan Golove on cello will perform Debussy’s Cello Sonata, the Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Hebrew Melody by Joseph Achron, with Golove playing the Rachmaninoff and the Achron works on the rarely heard theremin cello. Charles Haupt will join Hoca and Golove in Café Music, probably the most popular piece of new music for piano trio in America, by the contemporary composer Paul Schoenfield. Molly Glazer on cello, Alan Rose on piano, and David Rudge on violin will perform their own composition, Hand to Mouth, which will include a performance by choreographer/dancer Terry Black. Admission is free.

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