"Love and Fate" is the slogan the spin doctors of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra have assigned to the 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday pair of Classics Series concerts in Kleinhans Music Hall, conducted by Music Director Maximiano Valdes, with pre-concert talks an hour earlier. There's good reason behind the selection, at least insofar as the opening and closing works are concerned. Bartok's 1919 Suite from "The Miraculous Mandarin" may be more concerned with lust than love, but it is passionate, glittering, brilliantly orchestrated music that accompanies a ballet tale of a Chinese mandarin smitten by the beauty of a prostitute.
And for the "fate" portion of the advertisement, what could be better to conclude the concerts than Beethoven's famous Symphony No. 5, wherein the ubiquitous "dah, dah, dah, D-A-A-A-H" opening motif was described by the composer himself as "fate knocking on the door." Familiar? Yes! But like all great music, it thrills and reveals something new on each hearing.
The program might also have been called an alternate version of "The Three B's," because the composers represented are Bartok, Beethoven and, in the middle, Bach. Charles Haupt will abandon his usual concertmaster's chair, stepping forward as soloist in Bach's Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor. Unlike conventional concertos, there are no conflicts between first and second themes. Rather, the first movement consists of periodic restatement of the theme as a "ritornello" (a familiar signpost on which to mark the progress of the movement). The slow second movement is marked by long-held solo notes followed by great ornamental curves of embellishment, then a driving, dancey, ebullient Finale.
-- Herman Trotter