Those world-class classical music musicians in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra are coming soon to a park near you from July 2 through July 31. First, though, a quick review of the BPO’s superb season-ending concert at Kleinhans in June. Of course, we all knew that American Soprano Renée Fleming would be fabulous, and I’m sure many appreciated that she not only sang Richard Strauss’s “Four Last Songs” but came back after intermission for an entire second half of opera arias, selections from Broadway, and even a song written just for her called “The Diva.” While of course she has the voice, the international reverence, and the career to fit that title, Fleming, who grew up right down the road in Rochester, is anything but the haughty demanding type that “diva” suggests. While her voice is one in a billion, she really is as down-home as “the girl next door.”
What we didn’t know was how stunning the concert opener would be. It was the world premiere of a short (10-minute) orchestral piece by Ms. Wang Jie called “The Winter That United Us.” The title could refer to one thing we all faced in common and that was the Covid-19 pandemic. But by “us” Wang Jie is also commenting on how she united her own personal vision with that of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius through a magical concert at Kleinhans about ten years ago when the BPO played one of her favorite pieces from childhood, Sibelius’s Finlandia.
Speaking of Sibelius, Wang Jie really loves Kleinhans Music Hall and its “orange glow” and back in February 2018 JoAnn Falletta conducted a 15-minute symphony hers. (Also on that program was Finnish violinist Elina Vähälä performing Sibelius’ Violin Concerto.)
So this latest effort for the BPO at KMH was one heckuva ten-minute musical ride with a very large orchestra (about 20% larger than we’ve seen frequently of late). Composer Wang Jie sees colors when she hears certain notes. I myself kept hearing fragments and homages to a variety of composers. Starting with a trumpet’s call to action (Stravinsky?), it quickly went into a fanfare, then got mysterious (Saint-Saen’s “Aquarium”?), then all light and shimmery (“The Lark Ascending” ?) then a sweeping tug-at-the-heart melody worthy of Samuel Barber, then pounding tympani reminding me of Sibelius Symphony No. 5. And that was just what I wrote down. Wang Jie moves the sound around the sections of the orchestra so effectively I could almost see the sound waves.
BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta has for years introduced audiences to many contemporary composers’ music and that has twice resulted in Grammy awards (yeah, I’m looking at you John Corigliano and Richard Danielpour). But, even now, just as it’s still true that not many orchestras have a female Music Director, women composers are still a rarity in classical music. So, good for us! But that was then. What are those talented musicians doing right now this summer? I’m glad you asked.
Saturday July 2, at 2:00 pm
The BPO kicks off its summer season this Saturday, July 2, up in Lewiston, with a FREE 2:00 pm concert in Academy Park celebrating the Lewiston Bicentennial to be conducted by the wonderful Jaman E. Dunn. You may recall reading my review of his SPOTLIGHT ON BLACK COMPOSERS concert. And several of those composers will be heard again later this month in “A Concert for Healing” to be held on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo’s East Side (see details below). This Saturday afternoon among many other works Dunn will be featuring the “Castle House Rag” by James Reese Europe. Most of us have heard of Scott Joplin, but Europe died tragically young. He has a fascinating story which you can read here and you can listen to that rag from a recording we have played many times on our local WNED Classical radio station here.
Sunday July 3 at 8:00 pm
I hope that the BPO has a generous mileage reimbursement program (or some air-conditioned buses) because the very next night, Sunday July 3 at 8:00 pm, the musicians will travel 75 miles south to the Ellicottville Summer Music Festival for a ticketed event. Ron Spigelman will conduct music by The Electric Light Orchestra to be followed by fireworks accompanied by patriotic favorites. Note that this is a ticketed event (details here).
Monday, July 4 after 6:05 Bisons Game
Many may remember the BPO playing at Sahlen Field after a ball game on “the night before” but this year the KeyBank Independence Night at the Bisons will be July 4 following the baseball team hosting the Syracuse Mets (game time July 4 is 6:05 pm). Then Paul Ferington will conduct, WNY’s Joshua Vacanti fresh from The Voice will sing, and The Bisons promise “the largest fireworks display of the season!” This is a ticketed event. For tickets and details, click here.
Saturday, July 9 at 8:00 pm
The next concert is also a ticketed event, with the BPO playing the soundtrack as the original movie “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanTM“ is shown on the big screen at Artpark Saturday, July 9 at 8:00 pm. For tickets and details, click here.
Then the BPO embarks on a series of five FREE concerts starting with the BPO Brass at Bidwell Park Tuesday, July 12 at 7:00 pm.
There’s a full orchestral concert at North Park Academy (780 Parkside Avenue) Wednesday, July 13 at 7:00 pm
The BPO Brass again this time at The Belle Center, 104 Maryland, on Thursday, July 14 at 12:00 noon.
The BPO and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy present an outdoor concert at Cazenovia Park on Friday, July 15 at 7:00 pm titled “Olmsted 200 Celebration at Cazenovia Park.”
And on Sunday, July 17 at 7:00 pm the BPO returns to Niawanda Park in Tonawanda for a free outdoor concert.
There are several more concerts all the way through July 31 and for the complete list, visit here.
But one concert deserves special mention and that’s “A Concert for Healing” to be held on Buffalo’s East Side, Sunday, July 24 at 4:00 pm at the Johnnie B Wiley Pavilion, 1100 Jefferson Avenue. In the spirit of providing comfort and hope for all affected by the recent mass shooting tragedy in the Buffalo community, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and BPO Diversity Council offer this free performance, conducted by Maestro JoAnn Falletta along with Assistant Conductor Jaman E. Dunn, which will feature the full orchestra and vocalists Sirgourney Cook and Rev. Julian Armand Cook performing music that allows for moments of quiet reflection and celebrates the resiliency of the City of Good Neighbors. Included will be works by African American composers including Adolphus Hailstork’s “Three Spirituals” and “Fanfare on Amazing Grace.” and William Grant Still’s “Mother and Child.” This performance is free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations are required.
For a wide range of other non-classical musical listings in Buffalo Rising, you might check out Charles Skowronski’s “Music + Event Roundup July 2022” here. And his “Theatre – Art – Culture Roundup” here.