Music Director JoAnn Falletta began Friday evening's performance with the BPO premiere of the 1901 work, "Endymion's Narrative," by the American composer Frederick Shepherd Converse.
This performance, led by Falletta, which the BPO will soon be recording for a major record label release, should go a long way toward restoring him to his rightful place in the history of American music.
Based on a section of the lyric poem of the same name by Keats, Converse's dynamically introspective treatment uses highly colored orchestral effects in a broad rondo form, to follow Endymion's emotional changes, as he struggles to reconcile his surging ideals with common, human restraints.
Falletta skillfully managed to keep the momentum going in the episodic work, effectively contrasting the alternating intense episodes, with the quieter relapses into reminiscence, building to a prestissimo climax.
Pamela Frank and her husband, Alexander Simionescu, vividly confirmed the truth of the old adage that two can be better than one, especially when it comes to violinists. Frank and Simionescu, who took the viola part in Mozart's heartrendingly beautiful "Sinfonia Concertante," demonstrated a remarkable sensitivity, right from their initial unison entry, as equals, in the virtuosic Allegro, playing the movement's cadenza with flawless delicacy.
Their control of rubato, dynamics and phrasing, were especially apparent in the poignant Andante, where the intimate conversation between the soloists could melt all but the stoniest heart. If Falletta's tempo for the Andante initially seemed a shade fast, she built a convincing interpretation, which ended in an almost magically played cadenza. The Presto last movement was performed in an infectiously spirited style that was carried through to the encore, Halvorsen's arrangement of a Passacaglia by Handel, played by the soloists with spellbinding bravura.
Frank and Simionescu returned after the intermission in Bach's Concerto for Two Violins. The fast, outer two movements were played with well-calculated rhythmic phrasing, Falletta establishing a good balance between the soloists and the orchestra. The Largo is the emotional center of the piece, and the soloists blended in their discourse with each other with melting sensitivity, singing an utterly satisfying, beautiful duet, gently underpinned by the orchestra, that ended on the softest note imaginable.
Ibert's highly atmospheric "Escales (Ports of Call)," was brilliantly played by the full orchestra. Falletta led the audience through Ibert's tour of the Mediterranean, beginning in a shimmering, nocturnal calmness that gave way to a lively "tarantella." BPO principal oboist Pierre Roy was noteworthy in the delicately seductive Arabic tune of the Tunisian episode, while the brass and percussion sections got their say in the exhilarating finale. Saturday evening's repeat performance should not be missed.
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, with violinists Pamela Frank and Alexander Simionescu, Friday evening in Kleinhans Music Hall, with a repeat performance at 8 p.m. today.