The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s first concert this fall, which takes place Wednesday at Kleinhans Music Hall, hints at an unusual season ahead.
It’s rare to have a midweek opening gala. Adding to the novelty, the guest artist, superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma, is joining the BPO and Music Director JoAnn Falletta not for a tried-and-true crowd favorite, but a contemporary piece by an Argentinian composer, Osvaldo Golijov. It is called “Azul,” which means “blue.”
Dan Hart, the BPO’s executive director, is an avid music listener and is looking forward to it.
“I think people will be blown away,” he said, adding: “There’s nothing Yo-Yo can do wrong, in my opinion.”
The audience seems to agree. Tickets to Wednesday’s opening gala are all but sold out. At last report, only a few standing-room-only single tickets were left.
The rest of the season is also full of surprises.
Yo-Yo Ma is the first of a line of interesting guest soloists coming to Kleinhans this fall. For the first time, Buffalo will welcome pianist Simone Dinnerstein. Dinnerstein dominated the classical charts recently with her CD “Bach: A Strange Beauty.”
“I’m so excited about her,” Hart said. “I was in love with that Bach album. JoAnn and I were trying to think of some new artists to bring to the BPO experience, to introduce our audience to them.”
Falletta shares his enthusiasm. “I’ve never worked with her,” she said. “I’ve heard her recordings. She’s a person who’s just interesting, not doing the same things all the time. She was very happy to get to Buffalo.”
Guest conductors new this year include Arild Remmereit, who until recently was the music director for the Rochester Philharmonic.
Adding another dimension to the season, the BPO is going to be recording music of Hungarian composer Bela Bartok for an upcoming Naxos CD. Bartok’s “Two Portraits” and “Kossuth” are going to be recorded at the concerts featuring Dinnerstein. And on Oct. 19 and 20, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto is followed by Bartok’s Suite No. 1.
Falletta rejoices in the ongoing collaboration with Naxos, a popular classical music label.
“They told us our Gershwin was No. 12 on their top seller list for the year. That’s huge,” she said earlier this year, referring to a CD released in 2012. “They have thousands of CDs they distribute and produce. And to be No. 12 in terms of sales, that’s quite amazing.”
Here is a heads-up on BPO’s Classics season from now until Christmas. Unless otherwise noted, all concerts take place at Kleinhans Music Hall. For info on BPO events, call 885-5000.
8 p.m. Wednesday: Yo-Yo Ma plays “Azul,” and Falletta also conducts Stravinsky’s “Firebird” Suite.
Reason to go: to see Yo-Yo Ma “sell” this new piece. Wherever he has played it, it seems people flip.
10:30 a.m. Oct. 4; 8 p.m. Oct. 5: Brahms’ Symphony No. 1; “Medea’s Meditation” and “Dance of Vengeance” by Samuel Barber; and Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, with Vadim Gluzman as soloist.
Reasons to go: Max Bruch’s music is rich and romantic, a dream for a violinist and for anyone who loves the violin. The finale of Brahms’ First Symphony includes a noble, glorious theme that has been known to convert newcomers instantaneously to a lifelong love of classical music.
8 p.m. Oct. 19; 2:30 p.m. Oct. 20: Clarinetist Ricardo Morales is the soloist in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. Also, Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite” and Bartok’s Suite No. 1.
Reasons to go: Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto is a transcendent experience. Also, you get a chance to be part of BPO history as the orchestra records the Bartok for Naxos. Your cough could be on that CD!
8 p.m. Nov. 2; 2:30 p.m. Nov. 3: Norwegian conductor Arild Remmereit conducts excerpts from Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” and “Parsifal” as well as Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with Yakov Kasman as soloist.
Reasons to go: First, the seductive, thrilling music from the medieval love drama “Tristan,” an opera that changed music history. Second, it should be fun to get a look at Remmereit, who was the music director of the Rochester Philharmonic when, last year, the orchestra all but imploded. Management, board and musicians were all feuding and Remmereit, who has since left the orchestra, made headlines simply by refusing to talk.
8 p.m. Nov. 16; 2:30 p.m. Nov. 17: Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers is featured in a concert including Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”; Haydn’s “Miracle” Symphony; and de Falla’s “El Amor Brujo” Suite.
Reasons to go: It is a thrill to hear the “Miracle” Symphony while reflecting on its name: At its premiere in London in 1791, the story goes, a huge chandelier fell but no one was hurt because everyone had crowded to the front of the hall to applaud. Also, Anne Akiko Meyers – who has never played Buffalo before to my recollection – plays a Stradivarius that is whispered to have been owned by Napoleon.
10:30 a.m. Nov. 22; 8 p.m. Nov. 23: Pianist Simone Dinnerstein plays Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Also, Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1; and Bartok’s “Two Portraits” and “Kossuth.”
Reasons to go: Besides being in on the Bartok recording, it will be a treat to see Dinnerstein, who has had an unusual career. She self-financed her recording of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” the Telarc label picked it up in 2007, and now, Dinnerstein records for Sony. The Beethoven Second is non-grandstanding, transparent music that gives the audience a clear impression of her.
7 p.m. Nov. 30; 2 p.m. Dec. 1: The BPO and the Neglia Ballet present Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” at Shea’s Performing Arts Center.
Reasons to go: Do you really need one?
8 p.m. Dec. 1: The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus presents Handel’s “Messiah” at a venue to be announced.
Reason to go: This music never loses its lustre. Plus, you can see the chorus’ new director, Erin Freeman, in action, and confer with your friends afterward on how the chorus sounds after its tumultuous last couple of years.
10:30 a.m. Dec. 6; 8 p.m. Dec. 7: BPO Associate Conductor Matthew Kraemer conducts “Classic Christmas.”
Reasons to go: This year, the BPO has done a little yuletide switcheroo. Kraemer is conducting the classical Christmas concert, a tradition Falletta began a few years ago, and Falletta is conducting the Holiday Pops, taking place Dec. 13-15. Both concerts feature surprises, and this change adds a twist.