THE BASICS: JoAnn Falletta conducted the BPO in music by Enescu, Hailstork (featuring pianist Stewart Goodyear), and Tchaikovsky at a Friday morning “Coffee Concert” at Kleinhans Music Hall located at “3 Symphony Circle” Buffalo, 14201 where Porter Avenue, Richmond Avenue, North Street and Wadsworth meet at a traffic circle. The concert repeats this Saturday, February 19 at 7:30
Visit www.bpo.org or call 716-885-5000. Runtime: 2 hours with one intermission. Saturday night concerts have a bar across the lobby in the Mary Seaton Room. Proof of vaccination and masks required.
THE SHOW: African-American composer Adolphus Hailstork was born in 1941 right down the road in Rochester, studied with David Diamond, and also studied with the legendary Nadia Boulanger (who also taught Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and Quincy Jones, to clue you in to what that name Boulanger means). Well, Mr. Hailstork, or “Dolph” as JoAnn Falletta calls him, was in attendance at Kleinhans Music Hall on Friday morning when both the audience and the orchestra were loud in their applause for his 1992 Piano Concerto. To quote from Star Wars, Karate Kid, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – “The student has become the master.”
At the mighty Steinway for Hailstork’s concerto was African-Canadian pianist, Stewart Goodyear, who was so confidently up to the task of playing this sometimes bluesy, sometimes rhythmic, sometimes hard driving, and sometimes beautifully lyrical concerto. Very satisfying. (Please read about another opportunity to hear the music of Hailstork below.)
The concert opened with a musical tribute to the BPO’s music librarian for 36 years, Pat Kimball, who finally succumbed to lung cancer this year.
The concert opened with a musical tribute to the BPO’s music librarian for 36 years, Pat Kimball, who finally succumbed to lung cancer this year. Both JoAnn Falletta’s on-stage comments and the program insert “In Memoriam” opened our eyes to an unnoticed but essential part of every concert, every rehearsal, every recording. My mother was a librarian; I’ve known a number of librarians; so for me the most telling comment was the printed quote from Principal Pops Conductor John Morris Russell: “Her wry smile and wicked sense of humor were a wonderment to behold.” I can totally appreciate that.
Once again, I’m here to tell you, as a classical music radio host for 24 years, and one who has broadcast Enesco’s Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1 many times, there is no substitute for a live performance. That was the first scheduled work on the program and it was wild, with an 8 man brass section and stunning solos by all of the principal players, including Nikki Chooi and Caroline Gilbert. There’s so much going on with this wild gypsy music that can only be appreciated by being in the room where it happens.
(Speaking of Chooi, his former teacher, violinist Ida Kavafian, was in town Tuesday to perform on the Buffalo Chamber Music Society concert series and was eager to point out from the stage what a treasure we have in him. I felt like shouting “We know! We know!)
The concert concluded with Tchaikovsky’s ‘Fate’ Symphony, No. 4, which Falletta conducted from memory, without a score in front of her.
The concert concluded with Tchaikovsky’s “Fate” Symphony, No. 4, which Falletta conducted from memory, without a score in front of her. You may not know his six symphonies, but you do know his ballet “The Nutcracker.” Remember how each and every section, every dance, is unmistakably Tchaikovsky, but is so different from every other section, every other dance? Well, that’s one reason his fourth symphony is so entertaining. The first movement is huge, and when it’s over I felt satisfied, but there was much more to come, including the melodic Andantino section, the pizzicato Scherzo, and the finale, basically a theme and variations with a big, big finish.
UP NEXT: Assistant BPO conductor Jaman E. Dunn conducts SPOTLIGHT ON BLACK COMPOSERS featuring soprano Sirgourney Cook and several BPO musician soloists in music by Adolphus Hailstork, William Grant Still, Margaret bonds, and Ulysses Kay. Not at Kleinhans, but at Rockwell Hall on the Buff State Campus, presented by Buffalo Opera Unlimited, the two programs are next weekend, Friday February 25 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, February 27 at 2:30pm. You can listen to a Zoom conversation I had with Jaman E. Dunn here.