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One of the world's great guitarists, Angel Romero, comes to town this weekend to be the soloist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in the work that is unquestionably the most popular and revered of all guitar concertos.

It's the "Concierto de Aranjuez" by the late Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo, who died in 1999 at age 97, having lived a long and very productive life despite having been stricken with blindness when he was just 3 years old.

The extreme popularity of both guitarist Romero and the Rodrigo concerto would have been reason enough for the BPO's highly unusual decision to offer three performances of this concert in Kleinhans Music Hall. They are scheduled for 7:30. p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, with the usual "Musically Speaking" preconcert discussion one hour prior to each performance. But there is perhaps an even more overriding reason for this weekend's triple treat.

Since taking the reins of the BPO full-time, JoAnn Falletta has been one of the most highly visible conductors in the orchestra's 65 year history. Her face can be seen on billboards, on the side of buses, in magazine and newspaper ads -- everywhere.

This weekend, however, in addition to conducting Falletta will present another, different face to the audience, that of an instrumentalist. She will take her guitar out of its case and bring it on stage to join Romero as soloists in a performance of Vivaldi's Concerto in D Major for Two Guitars and Strings.

"I'm just thrilled to have the opportunity to play with Angel Romero," Falletta said, "because he was one of my role models when I was learning to play the guitar. Then to come back after intermission and lead a great orchestra like the BPO in the brilliant Concerto for Orchestra by Bartok makes this an unforgettable weekend for me."

In her first major interview with The News subsequent to her appointment as BPO music director, Falletta confided that as a youngster she had played piano, cello and guitar. That was in October 1998.

Barely a month later, in came some evidence that her relationship with the guitar was more than a dilettante affair. It was a recording on the Koch International label of chamber works by Schubert, Beethoven and the little-known Wenzel Matiegka, with Falletta as the guitarist. Although she had very few solo lines on this recording, The News' review pointed out her playing was of such assurance, and meshed so superbly with the other ensemble members, that it was apparent Falletta is, indeed, a very accomplished guitarist.

This contention is affirmed by the fact that Romero has accepted Falletta as his partner in the Vivaldi concerto. Romero has been playing professionally since age six, made his American debut at 16 in the famed Hollywood Bowl and has gone on to perform not only in all the world's major concert and recital halls, but also in such extraordinary venues as the U.N.'s General Assembly Hall, where he was invited in 1992 for a musical celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America.

Romero last played with the BPO in 1990 when Eiji Oue conducted a performance of the same Rodrigo "Concierto de Aranjuez" that Buffalonians will hear this weekend.

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