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BPO PROVIDES FANFARE AS SEASON GOES OUT WITH A BANG

The confluence of events called for a celebration. And the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director JoAnn Falletta were ready and able to provide the musical hoopla.

And what events are we talking about?

It so happens that Sunday evening's concert in the Artpark Theater was offered 30 years, to the day, after the BPO and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas had officially opened Artpark, New York State's brand spanking new arts and entertainment complex.

In addition, Sunday's concert was the orchestra's concluding performance of its 2003-04 season and also the final concert in its Artpark Summer Concert Series, which had significantly resumed after a 10-year lapse.

And to cap the good news, Chairman Angelo Fatta took the occasion to make the first announcement to a live BPO audience that JoAnn Falletta had just renewed her contract with the orchestra for another three years.

Falletta and the orchestra bridged the 30-year time span by opening the concert with Berlioz's Overture to "Benvenuto Cellini" and closing with Tchikovsky's ubiquitous "1812 Overture," both of which Tilson Thomas had included on the 1974 Artpark inaugural concert.

Berlioz's combination of brassy bombast and keening lyricism gave the concert a wonderful jump-start, while Falletta shaped the "1812 Overture" with a fine sense of contour and continuity, eschewing the all-too-easy excesses in order to let Tchaikovsky's music have its own say. As usual it was a crowd-pleaser.

There were welcome hands-across-the-border aspects to the concert, including the playing of both the American and Canadian national anthems.

In addition, Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker was featured in Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." Parker's playing was crisp, brittle and aggressively exciting, which kept the piano's voice in proper balance with the orchestra. But with all the dynamism of Parker's playing, his phrasing and touch always kept the music's essential blues character in focus. The orchestra was superb in the broad, rich, sweeping romantic theme, and the audience, which responded enthusiastically to everything, arguably gave "Rhapsody" its most explosive reception.

Two American works rounded out the program. Three Dance Episodes from Bernstein's "On the Town" were notable for the bouncily rhythmic, swaggering and taunting outer movements that surrounded the intimate "Lonely Town," with its haunting blues evocations and warmly swelling muted trumpet.

Another special treat was orchestra clarinetist Sal Andolina's compelling performance of Artie Shaw's Concerto for Clarinet, a brief one-movement work in the ambience of the swing band era with a fanfarish introduction, a warbling blues clarinet theme and a cadenza for clarinet and drums reminiscent of the famous Goodman "Sing, Sing, Sing" arrangement. Andolina and the orchestra were on top the music's jazzy riffs, noodlings and sustaining chords all the way.

At the end, Falletta and the orchestra served up Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" as an encore and a prelude to a postconcert fireworks display, with Andolina's small jazz ensemble as an added attraction.

Concert Review
BPO at Artpark
30th anniversary concert.
Sunday night in Artpark, Lewiston

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