Supposedly, the big attraction on this Philharmonic concert is the "Concierto de Aranjuez," the runaway favorite among guitar concertos, with the renowned Manuel Barrueco as soloist.
And indeed, Barrueco, conductor Maximiano Valdes and the orchestra produced a performance in which the technical difficulties of the outer movements were dispatched with consummate ease and winning musicality.
The haunting central slow movement, however, was more reflective and languorous than any performance I can recall. But soloist and orchestra played with a wonderful freedom of phrasing that had an improvisatory spontaneity, sustaining the line so artfully that the attentive listener could easily feel drawn in.
But where were the listeners? Hundreds of Philharmonic followers missed something special Saturday by staying at home.
But that wasn't the only attraction. The concert had opened with Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera's "Variaciones Concertantes," a wonderfully ingenious, absorbing and sensitively musical set of variations featuring just about every principal player in the orchestra. Trumpet, trombone and violin had some showy licks, to be sure, but the soulful playing of cello, harp, oboe, bassoon, horn and bass remain just as strong in the memory afterward.
For this listener, best of all was the suite from Falla's "El Amor Brujo." The music was by turns hot and sultry, ominous, full of flavorful distant reverie and exciting in its frenetic rhythms.
The entire performance was superbly nuanced and phrased, rhythmically crisp, precise yet free, and the instrumental ornamentation was turned with exquisite deftness. To hear the "Ritual Fire Dance" thrust out by oboe and keening strings, then ignited by the magnificent rhythmic control and finely graduated dynamics that Valdes drew from the orchestra, was to discover new life in an old war horse. Just plain wonderful!
I must also report, however, that although Edward Yadzinski's program note made an interesting case for Toru Takemitsu's "Vers l'arc-en-ciel" (Toward the Rainbow), it failed to deliver.
Featuring guitarist Barrueco and Florence Myers, oboe d'amore, the music was full of ideas, none of which were exploited in an interesting way. There was nothing offensive to the ear, just terminally vague music, the aural equivalent of a film made up of short clips from 10 different travelogues spliced together in absolutely random order.
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maximiano Valdes, featuring guitarist Manuel Barrueco and Florence Myers, oboe d'amore.
Saturday evening in Kleinhans Music Hall; repeat performance at 2:30 p.m. today.