As we learned from WNED PBS’s recent Buffalo-produced documentary KLEINHANS’ GIFT TO BUFFALO (missed it? stream the 30-minute for free here) the world-famous Kleinhans Music Hall was designed to have perfect acoustics for classical music but was never just for classical concerts. And that’s the case over the next eight-day week, starting this morning, April 2, at 10 am.
New for the littlest listeners there’s a special opportunity called “BPO Little Kids” for children 0-5 with their caregivers to join BPO musicians and community partners in fun musical activities that are “designed specifically for tiny ears and growing minds.” The event is only $5 per person (tickets online bpo.org/event/bpo-little-kids or call 716-885-500 or just show up at the door.) The whole event spans two hours from 10 am to noon this Saturday morning, but you can come by for a taste at any time or stay for the full program (schedule here) which will feature many BPO musicians and community partners. Activities for BPO Little Kids will be provided by: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Buffalo Suzuki Strings, Little Buffalo, and Monkey See, Monkey Do… Children’s Bookstore. Again, that’s this Saturday morning, April 2, starting at 10 but show up as you can anytime before noon.
Then this Saturday night, April 2, those same musicians will assemble on the main stage with the entire orchestra for a 7:30 pm repeat of yesterday morning’s “Coffee Concert” featuring a young phenom playing a very rare cello in a concert led by someone who got her start with the BPO.
When conductor Elizabeth Schulze was the Assistant Conductor with the BPO (1993-1995), Max Valdes was the Music Director, JoAnn Falletta wouldn’t be designated his replacement for four years, and cellist Oliver Herbert hadn’t even been born. But classical music seems to have the ability to keep everyone youthful and energetic and so time stood still when young GenZee cellist Herbert sat down to play the Cello Concerto by Robert Schumann. He plays a rare centuries-old Guadagnini cello (think Strads for violins) and when the opening notes reverberated in Kleinhans Music Hall’s superior acoustics, I knew I was hearing something different. And you can hear that marvelous machine tonight.
An analogy: There are many brands of bottled water, but do you remember how you felt when you first took a sip of your favorite? Sure it was “just water” but somehow it seemed completely different from all the others. Many cellists have played with the BPO, but the purity of sound coming from the stage yesterday morning was completely different. Young Oliver Herbert, hailing from San Francisco, is an alum of the weekly radio program featuring super-talented young performers called “From The Top” which can be heard Saturdays at 7:00 pm on local radio station WNED Classical, 94.5 FM or stream on any device. (Read on below to see another “From The Top” alum coming to play at Kleinhans next weekend with another “homecoming” on the podium.)
The concert which repeats tonight at 7:30 opened with a very exciting musical description of the vibrant energy of an urban city block in Harlem. The work by Millennial generation African-American composer Carlos Simon titled “The Block” was inspired by African-American artist Romare Bearden’s painting of the same name at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (learn more here).
It opens a little like John Adams’s “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” and makes full use of percussion and brass. Conductor Elizabeth Schulze had great command of the dynamics and when the orchestra was supposed to be soft it was and WHEN IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE LOUD…. WOW! After intermission, there was the brooding melancholy of Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D minor, an audience favorite.
Is BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta out of town? No, and she’ll be back on the podium conducting a one-night-only special, this Sunday night, April 3 starting at 7:00 (pre-concert choir performance at 6:15) that you might not know about.
In solidarity with the Ukrainian people, at a special one-night-only benefit concert led by JoAnn Falletta, the BPO performance will feature the full orchestra performing “music that allows for moments of quiet reflection and celebrates the resiliency of spirit of the Ukrainian people,” music including “Melody” by Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk, Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture,” Chopin’s Valse No. 2 from the “Les Sylphides” Suite, and Sibelius’ “Finlandia,” all resounding anthems of trial and triumph. The concert will open at 7:00 with the Ukrainian National Anthem.
In addition, BPO musicians will perform solo works with the orchestra, including Associate Principal Cellist Feng Hew performing Fauré’s solemn “Elégie for Cello and Orchestra;” flutist Natalie Debikey Scanio with the final movement from Christopher Rouse’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra titled “Àmhran,” (a Gaelic word for song); and Associate Concertmaster Amy Glidden, who performs the moving violin solo from John Williams’ theme from the soundtrack to “Schindler’s List.”
The super-talented Buffalo Girlchoir will perform before the concert in the Mary Seaton Room beginning at 6:15 pm.
Tickets for this “Slava Ukraini” concert are general admission with a “select-your-own-price” (suggested donation of $40 per person). All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Ukrainian American Freedom Foundation (UAFF), an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit charity. Since 2014, UAFF-Buffalo has shipped over 30 tons of desperately needed humanitarian and medical aid to war-torn Ukraine. To purchase tickets or to just make a donation visit here.
Now, next weekend there is an almost “parallel universe” concert series that matches up closely with this weekend’s concert. Next Friday morning at another 10:30 am “Coffee Concert” to be repeated Saturday night April 9th at 7:30 at Kleinhans, the concert will open with African-American composer Jonathan Bailey Holland’s “Motor City Remix” – a high-energy work celebrating, not NYC’s Harlem, but this time the music of Detroit, the “Motor City.” Then, next week, like this weekend, the soloist will be another young “From the Top” alum, in this case, it will be Drew Petersen at the Steinway piano with Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1.
I can’t recommend that seldom performed work enough. I discovered it by accident myself one day and was amazed that it wasn’t played more often. It is melodic, beautiful, and as delightful as you’d expect from the composer of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Tonight, April 2, the concert will close with Cesar Franck’s brooding Symphony in D minor. Next week, April 8 and 9, the concert will conclude with Mendelssohn’s mysterious “Scottish Symphony.” And on the podium next week? Another homecoming, this time, Buffalo’s own William Eddins.
All events mentioned in this article will be 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. Visit www.bpo.org or call 716-885-5000 or for these concerts, just come to the box office. The runtime for most events will be about 2 hours with one intermission. For the Saturday evening concerts, there will be a full-service bar across the lobby in the Mary Seaton Room.