No sooner were we told to shut down our cell phones than Buffalo Philharmonic Music Director JoAnn Falletta nearly ran to the podium, the orchestra jumped to its feet, and the traditional season opener “O Canada ”followed by“ The Star Spangled Banner ”filled the magnificent Kleinhans Music Hall. Then a delicious surprise. Composer Daron Hagen had arranged, especially for the BPO, a piece called “Bandanna Overture” using themes from his opera BANDANNA and expanding on the original score for wind orchestra.
The audience loved it too and when Falletta waved to the composer in the audience they roared and clapped even louder.
It was very exciting music that I felt like the opening music of a Jason Bourne or James Bond movie with aerial shots and quick camera work. The audience loved it too and when Falletta waved to the composer in the audience they roared and clapped even louder.
Slight digression: I was intrigued to read that the 1999 opera BANDANNA (libretto by Irish poet Paul Muldoon) modernizes and reframes both Shakespeare and Verdi’s OTHELLO, and places it in 1968 on the US-Mexico border where the chef de Police Manuel Morales (Othello) deals with illegal border crossings, issues with his lieutenant Jake (Iago) and marital issues with his wife Mona (Desdemona). Originally produced by the University of Texas at Austin, the Opera Pit Orchestra is almost entirely composed of musical instruments. It sounds like a winner for a local opera company or a big theater program like SUNY Buffalo’s. End of the parenthesis.
After the Hagen, the great Steinway was deployed on stage for one of the liveliest piano concertos ever composed, Ravel’s 1931 Piano Concerto in G.
After the Hagen, the great Steinway was deployed on stage for one of the liveliest piano concertos ever composed, Ravel’s 1931 Piano Concerto in G. If jazz composers Gershwin and French composer Saint-Saens had had a child in love, it would have been Ravel. You get the jazzy syncope of one, and then you twist the entire keyboard with the other. And, in fact, in 1928 Ravel met Gershwin in New York and they became good friends (see photo). Important note: If you like the Ravel, you will also like the forthcoming Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 which pianist Sara Buechner will perform with the BPO in Kleinhans on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon October 9 and 10.
Soloist Fabio Bidini, a regular Steinway guest artist with BPO, was made to play this music. He has the delicate touch for lightning-fast runs in the first and third movements and the heartbreaking soul for the middle adagio assai. Adding to that dreamlike adagio was the soloist on the English horn, played here by Anna Mattix of the BPO. You may recall that in the popular guitar work, the “Concierto de Aranjuez” or the “New World Symphony”, the two composers Rodrigo and Dvořak used the English horn for the great melody. Ravel, if you don’t know, was a master orchestrator.
Soloist Fabio Bidini, a regular Steinway guest artist with BPO, was made to play this music.
Then, if there was any doubt about Bidini’s ability to get the most out of every … single … note, he played Chopin for a encore, Nocturne # 2, I believe, savoring every note before moving on to something else. It was an unforgettable moment.
After the intermission, the BPO took over Beethoven’s famous Symphony No. 5, with the opening notes “da-da-da-DAH, da-da-da-DAH! Falletta, in accordance with almost all modern conductors, adopted the new, faster tempo for Beethoven. But how fast to play the opening movement has been a topic of discussion for centuries. According to an anecdote, Robert Schumann once consulted a spirit and asked this supernatural entity to strike the table using the correct tempo for the first two bars of Beethoven’s Fifth. After the spirit had finished knocking, Schumann said, “I’m sorry, dear table. But the tempo is faster than that!
Myself? I’m a bit old-fashioned. I like the heavier opening with a “da-da-da-DAH [pause] da-da-da-DAH [pause]. “But after those 8 ratings, I’m fine, and Falletta really shaken things up. The show lasted 32 minutes. Anything from 30 to 35 is the usual, so it was just on the faster end. of the scale.
One of the reasons I love live gigs at Kleinhans, besides sounding superior to your headphones, is to hear things you’ve never heard before, and in this case it was. the superb oboe solo of the first movement, played by Henry Ward. It was so good to see the whole orchestra on stage again after eighteen months of seeing them in small groups, socially distanced, and only on television or on the internet. What a thrill.
The Friday morning “Coffee Concert” that I attended tonight, Saturday September 25 at Kleinhans Music Hall, located at “3 Symphony Circle” Buffalo, 14201 where Porter Avenue, Richmond Avenue, North Street and Wadsworth meet at a roundabout. Visit www.bpo.org or call 716-885-5000. The concert starts at 7:30 pm and on Saturday there will be a “Let’s Talk Music” event in the main hall an hour before where Falletta and Bidini will discuss the music.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN KLEINHANS: “Music of Motown – Dancing in the Streets” with 19 hits from the 1960s including “How Sweet It Is”, “I Feel Good”, “Higher and Higher” arranged by Jeff Tyzik and conducted by John Morris Russell with singers Shayna Steele , Chester Gregory and Bernard Holcomb. These singers are really legitimate and you can read their bio and see the full program here.
MASKING AND VACCINATION PROTOCOLS FOR KLEINHANS MUSIC HALL
In order to further protect the health, safety and enjoyment of all, Kleinhans has a COVID-19 vaccination requirement and a masking policy for all staff, volunteers, artists and the public at Kleinhans Music Hall. Alternatively, customers can show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test performed within 72 hours of the concert start time. They are serious about it and I have seen people, with tickets in hand, refuse entry. Details on bpo.org/safety-protocols.
Main picture: BPO, Bidini and Falletta