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BPO celebrates classical greats, rock legends, Broadway songstress Kristin Chenoweth, lively performances for youth, and 'Florida Friends' tour in second half of the season

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Mon, Jan 21st 2019 11:25 am

After a break following a bustling holiday season in which the BPO performed for more than 25,000 people at 13 separate concerts, the orchestra returns for a second half of quality entertainment, classical masterworks, and hidden gems.

Variety on stage with M&T Bank Classics Series

Every year, the BPO dedicates a January concert to celebrating the birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most beloved and respected composers in music history. This year’s offering, “Mad About Mozart,” on Jan. 26 and 27, will put four of the BPO’s principal musicians in the spotlight. Principal horn Jacek Muzyk, principal oboe Henry Ward, principal clarinet William Amsel, and principal bassoon Glenn Einschlag perform “Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante,” the centerpiece of the program. With the overture to the bitingly satirical opera “The Impresario,” and the tragic, emotional “Symphony No. 40” rounding out the program, conductor JoAnn Falletta provides a thorough look at all facets of the great composer’s music.

On Feb. 2 and 3, conductor Ken Lam leads the BPO in a celebration of music from and about the Far East in celebration of the Chinese New Year. Pipa virtuoso Yang Wei makes his BPO debut performing “The Butterfly Lovers Concerto,” by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang. The concerto is one of the most famous and widely performed works of Chinese music, depicting the ancient tale of the Butterfly Lovers, a beautiful fable of love and loss. Also on the program is Stravinsky’s “Song of a Nightingale,” Borodin’s “In The Steppes of Central Asia,” and “Folk Songs For Orchestra” by contemporary Chinese composer Huang Ruo.

As an added bonus, the Chinese Club of Buffalo and Confucius Institute will help celebrate Chinese New Year. The hall will be decorated with festive red lanterns symbolizing a bright future. Several groups will give brief pre-concert musical performances. The lobby will bustle with cultural exhibits, including calligraphy and tea ceremony demonstrations. The concerts will open with a New Year’s blessing in Chinese and a Taiji fan dance.

Falletta returns to the podium on Feb. 15 and 16 for a performance of one of the most popular orchestral works of all time: “The Planets” by Gustav Holst. Originally written to highlight the astrological traits of each planet, the piece was an instant classic at its 1918 premiere. It will be paired with Scriabin’s “Poem of Ecstasy,” a mystical work that is often referred to as his “Fourth Symphony,” although played as a single movement. The Scriabin will be recorded for Naxos.

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 “The Tragedy of Salome” will be performed on this concert and recorded for a follow-up disc for Naxos.

Innovative conductor Leon Botstein returns to the BPO podium on March 8 and 9. Botstein is the president of Bard College and a classical music thought-leader. The program he conducts will star Anthony McGill, New York Philharmonic principal clarinet, in “Copland’s Clarinet Concerto,” originally composed for Benny Goodman.

McGill is among the few African-American principal musicians in the country. His brother, Demarre, Dallas Symphony Orchestra principal flute, performed with the BPO in 2015. This is Anthony’s BPO debut.

A landmark musical event comes to Buffalo on April 13 and 14. Throughout his career, eminent 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 today’s people, incorporating English and Hebrew texts, and voices of scripture not traditionally heard, including females Mary Magdeline and Mary Mother of God. The BPO commissioned Danielpour’s “The Passion of Yeshua,” and will give its East Coast premiere and first full-scale performance.

Soprano Hila Plitmann, who recorded with the BPO on the Grammy-winning “Mr. Tambourine Man” album, will be the guest soloist. Falletta will conduct, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and members of the UCLA Chorus will lend their voices to this work. Danielpour will be present for the premiere, which is expected to garner attention throughout the classical music world.

Thanks to the Buffalo Sabres, Western New York is familiar with Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.” On April 26 and 27, audiences can enjoy hearing his sole piano concerto, performed by fellow Armenian Tanya Gabrielian.

“A Hero’s Song” by Dvorak and “From My Life” by Smetana lend an Eastern European flair to the program.

When Beethoven was writing his “Symphony No. 3,” he intended to dedicate it to a man he had come to admire greatly: Napoleon Bonaparte, then first consul of France. However, during the composition process, Napoleon declared himself emperor of France. Disillusioned, Beethoven withdrew the dedication and renamed it “Eroica,” or “Heroic,” dedicating it “To the Memory of a Great Man.” The BPO performs this triumphant work on May 11 and 12 under Falletta’s baton.

The season concludes on June 1 and 2 with one of the most popular operas of all time, “Carmen in Concert.” The music of “Carmen,” with familiar arias such as the “Habanera” and “Toreador,” 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.

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.

BPO Pops Romps through Stage, Screen & AM Radio

On Feb. 9, the new-age Dixieland jazz group, 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.

With a post-concert “Sweetheart Dance,” open to all ticket-holding patrons, featuring Ben Baia and the Big City Horns, it’s the ultimate date night!

Michael Cavanaugh, who rose to fame as Billy Joel’s handpicked soloist in Broadway’s “Movin’ Out,” has wowed Buffalo audiences in his previous engagements with the BPO. On Feb. 23, he returns to rock the ivories with “The Music of Billy Joel, Elton John and More.”

On March 15 and 16, “The Wonderful Music 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 such as “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

The apogee of the pops season comes on April 6, with the long-awaited BPO debut of Emmy and Tony Award-winner Kristin Chenoweth. Chenoweth originated the role of Glinda in “Wicked,” starred in ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” appeared in television shows “Glee” and “The Muppets” as well as “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and “The West Wing,” and has written a best-selling autobiography.

The evening co-stars the BPO’s “Pops Party,” chaired by Ron Luczak and Michael Boland, which includes a cocktail hour and dinner catered by Oliver’s before the concert. All proceeds benefit the BPO’s education programs. For more information or to purchase tickets to the pops party, contact Megan Smith at 716-242-7825 or [email protected].

On May the Fourth, the BPO brings a social media trend to the Kleinhans stage with a “Star Wars” tribute aptly titled “May the Fourth Be With You,” featuring the iconic Academy Award-winning music spanning the film franchise’s four decades. The concert repeats at 2:30 p.m. on May 5 – ideal for young Padawan, or for the Sith among us. Costumes are highly encouraged, and pre-concert photo ops with everyone from Princess Leia to Darth Vader, courtesy of The North Ridge, are available both days.

John Morris Russell returns to close out the pops season on May 24 and 25 with the traditional Memorial Day salute to American veterans and American ideals.

Performing for Young Audiences

Three concerts remain in the BlueCross BlueShield of WNY BPO Kids Concert Series. Held on Sunday afternoons, each concert features an hour of free pre-concert stories, games, crafts and activities, including the “instrument petting zoo” with trials of the orchestra instruments, and are designed to appeal to elementary-school aged children with interactivity and engaging themes.

On Feb. 10, Platypus Theater joins the BPO to perform “Presto Mambo!” The show tells the story of Max and his dog, Mambo, whose attempts to help the orchestra during a concert send him on a whirlwind journey through Latin America, introducing him and the audience to the customs and music of our southern neighbors.

On March 10, the BPO introduces each section of the orchestra with Benjamin Britten’s classic work, “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.” Narrator Leah Wietig will be the guide, with new text written by Buffalo poet Amy VanDerwater, highlighting the special attributes of each instrument, and exploring how these divergent instruments work together to create a beautiful sound.

On April 7, the BPO goes international, exploring the peoples of the world through their music. The program pays special attention to music from the homelands of people who have immigrated to Buffalo.
BlueCross BlueShield members who show their membership cards at the box office will receive a $3 off discounted ticket price for all BPO Kids concerts.

Where Symphony Meets Rock ‘n’ Roll

The BPO was one of the pioneers of symphonic rock shows, and will deliver more tributes to some of rock’s greatest stars in 2019. The first rock show of the year is the one that started it all for the BPO: “The Music of Led Zeppelin.” On Jan. 19, Randy Jackson and Brent Havens of Windborne Productions return with this show that has rocked Buffalo each time the BPO has presented it.

Pink Floyd and laser shows go together like peanut butter and jelly. On Friday, May 3, The Machine comes to the BPO to perform the music of this influential band, timed to a spectacular laser light show. The rock season closes with a reprise of the ultra-successful 2017 collaboration between the BPO and The Strictly Hip. More than 10,000 people came to see the concert at Canalside Buffalo and celebrate the legacy of this quintessentially Canadian band. On June 8, the BPO and Strictly Hip perform this show at Kleinhans, paying loving tribute to the late Gord Downey and to his bandmates.

Tickets On Sale

Tickets and flexible subscriptions to all concerts are currently available by visiting bpo.org; by calling 716-885-5000; or by visiting the Kleinhans Music Hall box office at 3 Symphony Circle between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays with no shows; or 10 a.m. until showtime on concert Saturdays. Winter bundle three-concert packages are also available starting at $33 per concert seat. Visit bpo.org or call 716-885-5000 for more information.

About the BPO

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 46 new recordings on the Naxos and Beau Fleuve labels.

For more information about the BPO, visit www.bpo.org.

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