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PHOENIX WOOING FALLETTA, BUT HER HEART IS WITH BPO

JoAnn Falletta is conducting three concerts this week, but don't look for them in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's brochures.

The maestro is performing not in Kleinhans Music Hall but in Arizona, where the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra lists her among a dozen candidates to succeed retired Music Director Hermann Michael.

Relax, BPO fans. Falletta's tenure with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, which recently signed her to a three-year contract, will continue at least through the 2007-08 season.

"There is no way I would ever leave the Philharmonic," Falletta said by telephone Thursday after word circulated that she is being courted by the Phoenix orchestra.

"The BPO is my main focus -- the center of my life," she said. "It comes first no matter what."

"Buffalo has nothing to worry about in terms of her commitment and dedication," added new BPO Executive Director Daniel Hart.

In the high-flying world of conductors -- a pretty exclusive club -- guest appearances are routine, Hart pointed out.

Falletta, who has homes in Buffalo and New Jersey, is regularly a guest conductor across the United States and around the world. Recent engagements have taken her to Indianapolis, Montreal, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Nor is it surprising that she is on the short list for the Phoenix post.

She is considered a rising star in the field, and perhaps the nation's leading woman maestro.

Furthermore, many top conductors -- Falletta included -- are on more than one payroll.

She is music director of the Norfolk Symphony as well as the Philharmonic, and until recently served simultaneously as music director of the Long Beach Symphony.

Falletta also recently signed on as artistic adviser to the Honolulu Symphony.

"She's a person who can handle a lot of different things at once," said Hart, who worked with Falletta in Norfolk and at her urging was recruited by the BPO from the Columbus Symphony.

Falletta will return to Kleinhans Nov. 20 and 21 for two performances of Mozart's Requiem and Piano Concerto No. 21.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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