THE BASICS: Keith Lockhart, Principal Pops Conductor for the venerable Boston Pops, guest conducts virtuoso Strad artist Philippe Quint in American composer Samuel Barber’s hyper-romantic Violin Concerto, “American” Suite, Gabriela Lena Frank’s “Three Latin American Dances,” and Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” complete with French taxi horns. The concert starts at 2:30 pm at Kleinhans Music Hall.
MASKING AND VACCINATION PROTOCOLS FOR KLEINHANS MUSIC HALL
In order to further protect the health, safety and enjoyment of all, Kleinhans Music Hall has a COVID-19 vaccination requirement and a masking policy for all staff, volunteers, performers and audiences at Kleinhans Music Hall over the age of 12. Youth under age 12 must present a recent negative test for COVID-19 or proof of vaccination. Details at bpo.org/safety-protocols.
Concert Runtime: About two hours with one intermission. Beverages for sale across the lobby in the Mary Seaton Room. There was a “talk back” with three BPO musicians following the Saturday concert.
Every once in a while, you hear something new at Kleinhans that is so powerful, so interesting, so emotional that you want to tell the world. Well, the 49 year old California composer Gabriela Lena Frank is by birth herself a melting pot of Peruvian, Chinese , Lithuanian, and Jewish cultures and in 2003 went deep into her Peruvian roots to compose a South American / Latin American melting pot of music she calls “Three Latin-American Dances for Orchestra.” I might call it “a work for percussion and orchestra” because just about every toy that the percussion section owns was out on stage, including a number of traditional South and Latin American instruments, many via the African slave trade such as the shekere (the big pot or gourd with beads) or the conga drum. And, yes, they even used rainsticks.
It’s movie music but you make up the movie in your own mind. Sometimes it sounded like Ottorino Resphighi’s “Brazilian Impressions” with the sound of snakes, sometimes like Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera, often like Hollywood composer Danny Elfman, and for a couple of truly terrifying moments like Italian film composer Nino Rota. I’ve never had music leap off the stage and come at me like a leopard, but I felt it here.
Gabriela Lena Frank has traveled throughout South America, she studies Latin American folklore, and it all comes through. If this three movement work of multiple sonorities, time signatures, syncopated rhythms was all there were on the program, I would have felt satisfied. It’s that good.
But then, out came an old friend to Buffalo audiences, one of the original “Dueling Strads” violinists, Philippe Quint, who these days is playing the 1708 “Ruby” Antonio Stradivari violin on loan to him through the generous efforts of The Stradivari Society®. He played the Violin Concerto by Samuel Barber with its hyper-romantic and gorgeous melodies, composed by the same man who wrote the famous “Adagio.” A child prodigy, Quint hasn’t lost a step, but along the way has gained a maturity that let him blend perfectly with the orchestra.
But wait, there’s more. The title “American Suite in A major” by Dvořák might not sound familiar, but the music will. Still, even though he wrote it while in America, don’t expect anything like his String Quartet in F (“American”) or his String Quintet Opus 107 (also “American”) or his “New World” symphony. This is 100% Bohemian music, but if you love Dvorak (and who in Buffalo doesn’t?) you’ll love this.
The concert wrapped up with that orchestral show-stopper “An American in Paris” which inspired the movie which inspired the Broadway musical. In a way it’s a “concerto for orchestra” because every section gets to show off. And, yes, that includes the percussionists again who get to play the French taxi horns. To get that jazzy sound, the BPO also imported three sax players, on the baritone, tenor, and alto saxophones.
Kleinhans Music Hall is located at “3 Symphony Circle” Buffalo, 14201 where Porter Avenue, Richmond Avenue, North Street and Wadsworth meet at a traffic circle. Visit www.bpo.org or call 716-885-5000. The concert starts this Sunday, November 21, at 2:30 p.m.
Lead image: Philippe Quint source BPO website