Mathis, Mozart tribute, impressionist music and art, classical masterworks heat up winter at BPOby jmaloni
The Buffalo Philharmonic will return on Jan. 19 and 20 after a long winter's rest in time to celebrate the 256th anniversary of the birth of one of classical music's most beloved composers: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
M&T Bank Classics Series concert Cheers to Mozart will feature two talented young pianists, twin sisters Michelle and Christina Naughton, in a performance of the Piano Concerto No. 10. The Naughton sisters are Steinway artists, and reside in New York City. Though only in their early 20s, they have performed all over the world, and recently released their first album. Eminent Polish conductor Pawel Przytocki will be on the podium for the concert, which will also feature the "Overture to The Marriage of Figaro" and "Symphony No. 34."
The second installment in the BPO's new series, "Know the Score," will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24. These new, informal concerts are designed to meld the music with the story behind it and to spark conversation and curiosity among audiences. Conductor Paul Ferington, who has presented the popular "BPOvations" lecture series since 2005, will explore French impressionism in art and music, using images provided by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Patrons are invited to stay for a post-concert party, where they can meet the musicians of the BPO.
A highlight of the Buffalo Philharmonic's BlueCross BlueShield Pops series is the return of Johnny Mathis on Jan. 25. When Mathis was a college student, he excelled as both a musician and an athlete. He set a high-jump record that is still on San Francisco State's Top 15 and was two inches shy of the Olympic record of the time. He also performed frequently at bay-area nightclubs, and a club owner persuaded Columbia Records head of jazz A&R to see him perform.
The A&R man immediately sent a telegram to the label: "Have found phenomenal 19 year old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts." At the same time, Mathis enjoyed growing athletic success. In early 1956, he was forced to choose the path his life would follow when an invitation to try out for the Olympic team coincided with Columbia's request for him to come to New York and begin work on his first album. When he chose to travel to New York, he could not have dreamed that he'd have a history-making recording career, appear in two films, enjoy a record-setting 10-year run on the Billboard charts, and create the tradition of the "greatest hits" album. His fan base in Western New York is particularly strong, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is excited to welcome him back for a sold-out show.
On Feb. 1 and 2, the Buffalo Philharmonic will present one of classical music's masterworks with "Pictures at an Exhibition." The Mussorgsky piece takes listeners on a musical journey through an exhibit of paintings by Mussorgsky's friend, Victor Hartmann. Originally composed for piano, it was arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel in 1922, and has been a mainstay of classical repertoire ever since.
The concert will also feature the BPO premiere of Canadian composer Andre Mathieu's "Piano Concert No. 4," performed by pianist, radio host and composer Alain Lefevre. Mathieu had a very promising early life, gaining fame as a child prodigy and winning a composition contest sponsored by the New York Philharmonic at the age of 11. However, his adulthood was troubled and turbulent, marked by depression, alcoholism, broken relationships and failure to realize his early potential. He was only 39 when he died, and his brilliance and early promise combined with his short, difficult life has led many to refer to him as "the Canadian Mozart." His "Piano Concerto No. 4" was unknown to audiences until 2005, when a female friend of Mathieu's came forward with a recording of the piece. It was painstakingly reconstructed and scored for piano and orchestra. Lefevre has become a great champion of this piece and of Mathieu's work in general, and served as music director for a 2010 French-language film about Mathieu titled "The Child Prodigy."
The concert will also feature the first BPO performance of Aaron Copland's "Dance Symphony" since 1968, when Copland himself conducted. Copland's ties to Buffalo were strong, as he was a frequent guest conductor of the BPO and held the Slee professorship at the University at Buffalo.
All concerts will be presented at Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo. Concert tickets and further information are available by calling 716-885-5000 or visiting bpo.org.