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'Tango' kicks up air of excitement

"Argentine Tango" was the banner headline on Saturday night's Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra program and, for the most part, it was truth in advertising.

The bulk of the program's music was written by Astor Piazzolla, the Argentine bandoneon-playing genius.

Daniel Binelli was brought in as the primary soloist for the evening.

While the first and last movements of the concerto were suitably ardent, it was the middle portion that proved most memorable. Binelli opened with a slowly burning, beautifully virtuosic, bandoneon solo before being joined in sequence by three different groupings -- the harp and violin, the harp and cello, with the four instruments blending forces before the rest of the orchestra eased into the mix.

Binelli was frequently joined on stage for some of the other Piazzolla pieces played on the program by Pilar Alvarez and Claudio Hoffman, two extremely talented dancers.

Music from three Mexican composers -- Jose Pablo Moncayo, Manuel Ponce and Arturo Marquez -- from different eras also contributed to the program.

"Huango", Moncayo's best-known orchestral work, dates from 1941, when he was employed as a percussionist in the Mexico Symphony Orchestra and employed dance rhythms lifted from his county's folk music traditions.

Manuel Ponce, despite a distinguished career that included writing works for Segovia and stints as a conductor, teacher and critic had his greatest commercial success with "Estrellita (Little Star)," a song first published in 1914.

Arturo Marquez, born in the middle of the last century, is one of the more impressive new composers from Mexico. His "Danzon No. 2" is exciting and energetic, a string-driven piece that wears its influences (campesino music, mariachi bands and folk tunes) with rapturous grace.

The final work scheduled for the concert came from the pen of Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. Born in 1916, his 1941 ballet "Estancia" (along with his earlier dance piece "Panambi") ranks as the best known of his early scores. From the full length work, Ginastera created a suite showcasing "Estancia's" four of the piece's most prominent themes.

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