THE BASICS: This Sunday, April 24 at 2:30 JoAnn Falletta and the BPO will again join forces with 140 singers from two choruses – the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and The Crane School of Music Chorus – for the BPO’s first choral concert at Kleinhans in over two years! Along with two operatic soloists – exquisite soprano Nicole Cabell and powerful baritone Evan Hughes – there are only two works on the program, a very listenable but exciting modern symphony celebrating the painter Clyfford Still and Brahms’ beloved Requiem.
In the classical music realm, there are two kinds of requiems – the scary “you are going straight to hell” kind such as Verdi’s or even Mozart’s and then the gentle “I’m sorry for your loss” ones such as Faure’s and Brahms’ requiems. German composer Brahms’ Requiem was composed after the death of his beloved mother and has been described as “a gentle benediction offering comfort and hope for the living.” That’s one reason it was composed in German – the native language of the common people – and not in the traditional Latin, the language of the church authorities.
Its actual title is “Ein Deutsches Requiem” (“A German Requiem”) and it will be sung in German with English surtitles projected above the orchestra and chorus. One of the sections “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place” (listen here) is so beautiful that it’s often performed on its own, especially when music for healing is required, as is say Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” or the “Nimrod” movement from Edward Elgar’s the “Enigma Variations.” Certainly, if there were a time for healing, it is right now.
By the way, that entire “Enigma Variations” by Elgar (sometimes called “The English Brahms”) will be on the next M&T Bank Classics Series concert at Kleinhans on May 7 and 8, which also features the soulful lamentation “Schelomo, Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra” which will feature cellist Roman Mekinulov.
Also by the way, the Crane School of Music, part of SUNY Potsdam, is the alma mater of Renée Fleming, who is also coming to Buffalo for a gala concert on June 11, 2022. Typically these high-profile concerts open a season. In this case, it will wrap up the 2021-2022 season. For more information visit bpo.org/gala.
The program began with the world premiere performance of American composer Russell Platt’s “Symphony in Three Movements (For Clyfford Still)”, commissioned by the BPO to celebrate the artwork of Clyfford Still, a major American artist whose distinctive abstract expressionist works are a centerpiece at Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery. If the composer’s name sounds familiar, eight years ago, in April 2014 the BPO premiered Platt’s “Eurydice, A Serenade for Strings”
Reviewing that work, the Buffalo News reported then that the serenade was “European and traditional in tone, full of ethereal and lovely harmonies. It is the kind of music that floats in the air and could remind you at times of Wagner or Mahler. The cellos and violins play yearning, sensuous lines. The music has a gentle pulse that slows and calms your mind—transports you, you could say.”
This newer work, the symphony, is much more “American” in sound, bigger, bolder, craggy yet welcoming which befits an orchestra that JoAnn Falletta has often said “is a hybrid of European warmth and depth and American muscle.” But without that earlier work, which brought composer Platt to Buffalo and ultimately led to a serendipitous trip to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, we might not have the symphony. It turns out that in between performances, Platt visited the AK as a tourist and, as so many are, was mightily impressed by the massive oil paintings by iconoclastic Clyfford Still.
In the extra program notes, we read “I was deeply moved by this steadfast art, and I have attempted to concentrate its essential quality and transfer it to musical form…. The symphony’s expressions are variously consonant and dissonant, melodic and massive, meditative and active, epigrammatic and long-breathed. But it is all driven by the spirit of Still’s art, and by my admiration for the Orchestra and Gallery, and the city in which they are based.” The opening movement is titled after one of the paintings called “1957-D-No.1” of which the composer wrote that it’s “one of his most iconic (it’s reproduced on his Wikipedia page). Intensely serious, it also explodes with life.”
It all came together and with the four inspiring paintings projected on a giant screen over the orchestra, the audience went wild.
Well, it all came together and with the four inspiring paintings projected on a giant screen over the orchestra, the audience went wild. It’s obvious that composer Russell Platt “gets” Buffalo and we “get” his music.
The first of two performances was Saturday evening, April 23 and the next performance will be this Sunday, April Apr 24 at 2:30 pm. Tickets start at $29, or just $10 for students with valid student I.D. Call the box office at 716-885-5000, visit bpo.org/event/brahms-german-requiem, or just come to Kleinhans and purchase your tickets there.
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.
UP NEXT IN JUST FIVE DAYS: Another choral concert! After the very successful BPO fund-raising concert “Slava Ukraini: A Benefit Concert for Ukraine” which was held on April 3, this coming Friday, April 29th, a number of Buffalo Philharmonic musicians who perform as the Camerata di Sant’Antonio Chamber Orchestra will present WE STAND WITH UKRAINE, a concert celebrating classical music from Ukraine in support of war relief efforts.
The program to be held Friday evening, April 29 at St. Louis Church (Main at Edward Streets) will include beautiful Ukrainian works never before performed in the United States, including a symphony by Maksim Berezovsky, a fellow student of Mozart’s. The Camerata (orchestra and chorus) are also presenting music from the “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” by Polish composer Henryk Gorecki which includes a prayer to the Virgin Mary inscribed by a young woman on her cell wall in the Gestapo’s Zakopane prison during World War II.