Buffalo is seeing the wild side of Dennis Kim, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's concertmaster, this weekend. Kim is the soloist in the entertaining Violin Concerto by Philip Glass.
Actually, we are seeing the wild side of the entire orchestra. Music Director JoAnn Falletta at the helm, the BPO is performing a bang-up concert of soulful but showy American music. It culminates in Aaron Copland's monumental Third Symphony, a riot of color from beginning to end.
The opening Three Dance Episodes from Leonard Bernstein's "On the Town" set the tone for the night. Trumpets blared and that smart Bernstein syncopation snapped and popped.
The bluesy "Lonely Town" made for a bittersweet interlude. Otherwise, everything was frenzied and fun. Tight and together, the orchestra gave the music a feeling of spontaneity. Before the concert, it was announced that the BPO would be playing these dances on its upcoming tour of Poland, in spring 2018. Poland had better get ready.
More excitement followed.
Taking the stage for the Philip Glass concerto, Kim set up a music stand with a score. You couldn't blame him. Who in the world could memorize something like this?
The concerto is weirdly engrossing music. Kim poured out the repeated triplets associated with Glass in the first movement, sending them spinning briskly out into the hall. The orchestra took up the pattern and the music became a kind of whirlwind, drawing you in.
Glass doubtlessly was thinking of Bach and other Baroque masters, particularly in this opening movement. It had that kind of percussive energy and drive. In a hall full of people, it became mesmerizing. At one point I thought I could sense everyone breathing together – soloist, orchestra, conductor, all of us.
Kim was particularly affecting at the start of the slow movement, articulating his scant, austere lines with understated emotion. The last movement returned to the frenetic energy of the first. You could follow the riffs as they zipped around the orchestra. It is to the musicians' great credit that they made it appear easy, which it definitely cannot be. They looked for all the world as if they were enjoying themselves.
Kim also looked as if he were enjoying himself – so much so that he rewarded the passionate applause with a crazy, capricious encore. For the record, it was "Applemania," by the contemporary Russian composer Aleksey Igudesman.
With Philip Glass, you know what you're getting, and the same could be said of Copland. If you know "Appalachian Spring" and other popular Copland pieces, you will feel comfortable with this symphony. It also incorporates the famous "Fanfare for the Common Man."
Falletta gave the music weight, pausing before starting to give the audience a chance to settle in. The orchestra filled the music with nobility from the word go. The opening movement built gradually just as it should, to great crashing crests of sound.
The calm interludes had an unhurried, spacious beauty. The clean horizontal lines, the bird chirps from the woodwinds and the clip-clop percussion suggested "Rodeo." The "Fanfare" struck notes of nostalgia. Copland loved his country so much. His music can resonate especially now, when our country is so divided.
Such brooding thoughts evaporated by the time of the symphony's exhilarating close. There is nothing but brightness and optimism. This is a great symphony, and also great fun, and I do not think Copland would disagree. The crowd stood and cheered.
The concert repeats at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Kleinhans Music Hall.
Story topics: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra