The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates the vast array of music that "makes up our world" in the upcoming season. The 2018-19 season is filled with major works, superstars, drama, multimedia and masterpieces old and new that will resonate throughout Kleinhans Music Hall.
M&T Bank Classics Series Strikes Balance Between Cutting-Edge, Traditional
JoAnn Falletta has artfully programmed a classics season that features beloved works, new voices, and works of a truly global character.
The season opens Saturday, Sept. 15, with operatic superstar baritone Thomas Hampson in a program that also includes Beethoven's iconic Ninth Symphony, featuring the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus.
Hampson is a Metropolitan Opera Guild "Met Mastersinger" and has a distinguished international career that includes more than 80 operatic roles performed in the world's foremost opera houses. His award-winning discography comprises more than 170 recordings.
The BPO's annual gala takes place that evening, with pre-concert dinner and cocktails, premium concert seating, and a post-concert dessert reception. Proceeds from the gala benefit the BPO's award-winning educational programs, which serve more than 50,000 students every season.
The next two Classics concerts highlight both European masterworks and New York-based composers. On Sept. 29 and 30, George Tsontakis' "May the River be Unbroken" complements Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1.
On Oct. 12 and 13, Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto and Buffalo native Robert Paterson's "Dark Mountains" are featured with Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 3. Falletta, a native New Yorker herself, leads both concerts.
On Oct. 27 and 28, the BPO celebrates the centennial of Poland's independence, the country's rich musical heritage, and the warm relationship between Poland and Buffalo, exemplified by the BPO's Poland Tour. Piotr Sulkowski, general and artistic director of the Warmia and Masuria Philharmonics, guest-conducts a program featuring Paderewski's Piano Concerto performed by Polish pianist Lukasz Krupinski, Nowowiejski's Praetorian March from "Quo Vadis," and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 3, "Polish."
Joan Tower is one of today's most celebrated female composers. Her work has been commissioned by leading soloists such as Evelyn Glennie and Carol Wincenc, and by major orchestras such as the Saint Louis Symphony and Florida Orchestra. She will be in attendance on Nov. 16 and 17 for the performance of two of her best-known works: "Tambor" and "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman." The striking program includes Mussorgsky's beloved "Pictures at an Exhibition," and a Concerto for Rock Band, Violin and String Orchestra performed by former R.E.M bassist Mike Mills and violinist Robert McDuffie.
On Feb. 2 and 3, 2019, conductor Ken Lam leads the BPO in a Chinese New Year celebration. Xu Ke is the world's foremost erhu virtuoso, and will perform the "Butterfly Lovers Concerto" by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang. Also on the program are the popular "Train Tocatta" by contemporary Chinese composer Liu Yuan, and Stravinsky's "Song of a Nightingale."
Violinist Sarah Chang has been in the international spotlight since she was 8. The former child prodigy has matured into one of the most respected violinists of this time. She will return the BPO for the first time in more than a decade on March 2 and 3 to perform Brahms' Violin Concerto. The rest of the program continues the orchestra's exploration of the works of Florent Schmitt. A popular French composer during the early 20th century, Schmitt won the Prix de Rome, but his works faded from the repertoire over time. In 2015, the BPO released a disc of his works on the Naxos label, and his "Musique sur l'Eau" and "La Tragedie of Salome" will be performed on this concert and recorded for a follow-up disc for Naxos.
One of the major highlights of the season comes on April 13 and 14. Throughout his life, composer Richard Danielpour has wished to write a "Passion" that depicts the timeless story of the death of Jesus Christ in a manner that speaks to modern people. Using both English and Hebrew texts, Danielpour's "The Passion of Yeshua" will receive its East Coast premiere and first full-scale performance.
Soprano Hila Plitmann, who recorded with the BPO on its Grammy-winning "Mr. Tambourine Man" album, will be the guest soloist. Falletta will conduct, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus will lend their voices to this powerful work, commissioned by the BPO.
The season concludes on June 1 and 2 with "Carmen in Concert." One of the most popular operas of all time, its music has become woven into the fabric of popular culture, frequently used in commercials, films, television shows and cartoons. Its accessible, action-packed storyline has made it a perennial favorite at opera houses around the world. A stellar cast will join the BPO and Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus in a semi-staged production of highlights from this opera.
There is much more in store for the Classics season, including a guest appearance by eminent conductor Hans Graf; a celebration of Mozart's birthday featuring BPO musicians performing his Sinfonia Concertante; Holst's "The Planets"; Copland's Clarinet Concerto performed by New York Philharmonic Principal Clarinet Anthony McGill and conducted by Leon Botstein; Schubert's Symphony No. 9 on a program that includes Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 performed by Sara Buechner; and the U.S. premiere of Sheridan Seyfried's Violin Concerto performed by Concertmaster Dennis Kim on a program that includes Beethoven's Eroica Symphony.
"I can't tell you how proud we are to be bringing this season to our Western New York audience," Falletta said. "When we develop a season, we try to balance classical masterworks with the bold new works that are being written in our own time. Today's audiences love Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Holst's 'The Planets,' but these works are available for us to enjoy today because audiences took a chance on them in the past. Buffalo has always embraced new works, and we can't wait to share these gems with you in the coming season."
Kristin Chenoweth Headlines Pops Series
Principal Pops Conductor John Morris Russell has created a series filled with variety from Broadway to over the rainbow and a galaxy far, far away. He conducts six of the concerts on the series, this year including the season kickoff, "Happy Birthday Gershwin," on Sept. 22. This program celebrates the 120th birthday of this quintessentially American composer, who brought jazz from the clubs into the concert hall and penned such classics as "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Porgy and Bess."
The performance of Emmy- and Tony-award-winner Kristin Chenoweth on April 6 is the highlight of the Pops Series. Chenoweth is possibly best known as the original Glinda in "Wicked," but she also appeared in "Pushing Daisies," "The West Wing" and Disney's "Descendants." In 2009, she wrote a candid, comedic chronicle of her life so far, "A Little Bit Wicked," which debuted on the New York Times Hardcover Non-Fiction Bestseller list.
Russell will be back Oct. 6 to conduct Melinda Doolittle. Doolittle rose to prominence on "American Idol," when Simon Cowell called her his "personal favorite." Since then, Doolittle has performed everywhere from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Carnegie Hall. She makes her BPO debut singing the "American Soulbook," with classic and modern soul super hits.
Russell will also conduct a special Thanksgiving weekend presentation of "Superheroes!" This concert will start an hour earlier than usual, at 7 p.m. Nov. 24, and will feature scores from the Marvel Cinematic Universe of films, as well as the iconic music associated with "Batman," "Super-Man," "Spiderman" and more.
He will also, of course, be on the Holiday Pops podium as Mr. Christmas, with the panoply of Christmas delights the Western New York audience has come to cherish. In response to extraordinary demand, there will be an additional morning performance of this concert on Thursday, Dec. 13 (10:30 a.m.), replacing the Friday night performance offered in previous years.
On Feb. 9, The Hot Sardines make their BPO debut under the baton of John Morris Russell. Bandleader Evan Palazzo and lead singer Elizabeth Bougerol met in 2007 after they both answered a Craigslist ad about a jazz jam session above a Manhattan noodle shop. The pair bonded over their love for Fats Waller and founded The Hot Sardines to make old jazz new again. They channel New York speakeasies, Parisian cabarets and New Orleans jazz halls, and their self-titled debut album was named one of the best jazz albums of the year by iTunes.
Russell closes the Pops season on May 24 and 25 with the traditional Memorial Day salute to American veterans and American ideals.
The rest of the series is a romp through some of the best music from the stage, screen and AM radio. "Hello Broadway!" on Oct. 19 and 20 celebrates the work of Jerry Herman, composer of "Hello, Dolly!" "La Cage aux Folles" and "Mame," among other Broadway smash hits. Nov. 2 and 3 will see the world premiere of Ann Hampton Callaway's "The Linda Ronstadt Songbook." Michael Cavanaugh will return on Feb. 23 with the music of Billy Joel, Elton John and more. On March 15 and 16, "The World of Oz" pays tribute to the L. Frank Baum classic as told on Broadway in "The Wiz" and "Wicked," by Hollywood in "The Wizard of Oz," and on the radio in songs like "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."
The BPO also takes the "May the Fourth Be With You" celebration from social media to the Kleinhans stage with a "Star Wars" concert on that date, featuring the Academy Award-winning iconic music spanning the franchise's four decades.
"We have so much spectacular music to share with Buffalo next season," Russell said. "We put the 'pop!' in 'popular' orchestral music everyone loves. I can't wait to revel in the exceptional artistry of the BPO, our amazing guest artists, and the flat-out fun we all have together at Kleinhans Music Hall!"
BPO Goes to Florida
The BPO has visited Florida several times in the past decade, performing for sold-out crowds in some of the state's cultural hotspots and reconnecting with the many supporters and friends who have left Buffalo for warmer climes. From March 30 to April 4, the orchestra will again pay a visit to the Sunshine State, with engagements in St. Augustine, Dayton Beach, West Palm Beach, Sarasota and Vero Beach.
Buffalo favorite Fabio Bidini will be the featured soloist on the 2019 Florida Friends tour, performing Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 on a program that includes Borodin's Overture to "Prince Igor" and Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet." The program will be performed at Kleinhans on March 23 and 24.
Subscribe now for best seats to these concerts
As always, a subscription to the BPO is the best value. Patrons who subscribe save substantially on handling fees, lock in their seats early, and get the first chance to add other concerts to their package before the general public. With Western New York's most flexible ticket exchange policy, tickets can change when one's schedule does.
Single tickets will go on sale for all events on Aug. 11.
This year, subscribers who renew by March 19 will be able to keep the same price as the previous year. Prices will increase after March 19. Subscription packages range from as few as five concerts, to full seasons of Pops or Classics. To subscribe, call 716-885-5000 or visit bpo.org
About the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
As Buffalo's cultural ambassador, the Grammy Award-winning Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, under the leadership of music director Falletta, presents more than 100 concerts each year. Since 1940, the orchestra's home has been Kleinhans Music Hall, a National Historic Landmark with a reputation as one of the finest concert halls in the U.S.
During Falletta's tenure, the BPO has rekindled its history of radio broadcasts and recordings, including the release of 43 new recordings on the Naxos and Beau Fleuve labels.