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BPO welcomes firebrand pianist for 'Rhapsody in Blue'

Charlie Albright is a pianist, a composer and an improviser. The New York Times has lauded his "jaw-dropping technique and virtuosity.'" Buffalo is going to get to see that virtuosity head-on when the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra joins Albright for what promises to be a smoking "Rhapsody in Blue."

We pause to remind audiences that this is one of those occasions when the Buffalo Chamber Music Society allowed us the privilege of saying, "We saw him when ...." In 2011, Albright played a free recital on the society's Gift to the Community series, the free Sunday series that spotlights musicians of promise.

"I get itchy feet really quickly," Albright, a graduate of the New England Conservatory, told The News on that occasion.

He  went on to explain about his formative years growing up in Seattle.

"I was doing movie music and popular songs," he said. "My teacher eventually told my dad that I needed a strong classical background. So he sent me to a teacher who introduced me to classical music."

In the past few years, Albright's itchy feet have led his pianist hands to win myriad awards and honors. He has also become known for his collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma. Playing Gershwin with the BPO, however, will allow him to revisit his boyhood love for popular song and show business. Albright should do a fine job with it.

His performance is the centerpiece of an all-American concert. BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta conducts the program, which also includes John Adams' "Short Ride in a Fast Machine," Duke Ellington's "New World A-Comin'" and Ferde Grofe's evocative "Grand Canyon Suite." The great Grofe also orchestrated "Rhapsody in Blue."

The concert takes place at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 29 and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 1 in Kleinhans Music Hall. Tickets for Sept. 29 are $50-$60. Tickets for Oct. 1 are $29-$84. For info, call 885-5000 or visit bpo.org.

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