The Viva Vivaldi Festival, the long-running and beloved Buffalo concert series centered on the Italian baroque composer, begins this year on Halloween night.
The festive start date is, in a way, appropriate. For Viva Vivaldi's countless fans, the concert series signifies the beginning of the holiday season. Performed by the Ars Nova Musicians, the distinguished Buffalo chamber orchestra, the concerts take place on four consecutive Sunday evenings. They feature many of Buffalo's best musicians, including many from the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. And they take place in some of the area's most beautiful houses of worship, all softly lighted and filled with enthusiastic crowds.
If the festival is wondrous in its music, it's also a miracle of organization and coordination.
Music has to be ordered far in advance from firms all over the world. "Some music came from South America this year," says Marylouise Nanna, the BPO violinist who leads Ars Nova and has masterminded Viva Vivaldi from its inception.
Other scores, she adds, came from Europe. This year was especially complicated because the famed music-publishing firm Boosey and Hawkes lost the group's order. The problem was straightened out at the eleventh hour. ("I finally got a human on the phone," Nanna rejoices.) But because of the long delay, getting the scores copied and distributed in time was a challenge.
Nanna's sanguine attitude, though, makes clear that the festival always comes together in the end. This year, the program is especially varied.
Last year marked Viva Vivaldi's 25th anniversary, so the music was mostly Vivaldi. This year spotlights more "Vicarious Visionaries" (that's Viva Vivaldi slang for contemporaries of Vivaldi, composers influenced by Vivaldi or, well, any composers other than Vivaldi).
One program features the Acquarelle No. 1, "To be sung of a summer's night on the water," by Frederick Delius. Nanna arranged it herself for men's voices and string orchestra. When the piece is performed, on Nov. 7, the Ars Nova Musicians will be joined by the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus.
Handel's Concerto Grosso in C, "Alexander's Feast," will begin the Nov. 7 concert. And a concerto by Johann Christian Bach, featuring BPO principal cellist Roman Mekinulov, edges Viva Vivaldi into the Mozart era.
One of Vivaldi's most gifted colleagues, the sparkling composer Archangelo Corelli, lends two concertos to this year's schedule.
And Viva Vivaldi's final concert, on Nov. 21, concludes not with Vivaldi, but with Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach's Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins will feature the Buffalo Suzuki Strings, who, directed by Mary Cay Neal, have been an attraction at the festival since its start.
All together, it's quite a package, and quite a treat.
"It's really going to be fun," Nanna says. "There's a lot of variation in it, and I like that every now and then."
Here is the schedule for Viva Vivaldi XXVI. All concerts take place at 6:30 p.m.
Sunday in the Unitarian Universalist Church, 695 Elmwood Ave.: Music of Vivaldi, Corelli and Telemann. Soloists include violinists Jacqueline Galluzzo, Nadejda Nigrin, Diana Sachs and Alan Ross; cellists David Meyer, Robert Hausmann and David Schmude; and horn players Jacek Muzyk, Daniel Sweeley and Jay Matthews. Also featured: Natalie Debikey on piccolo and, in Vivaldi's motet "In Furore," soprano Sebnem Mekinulov.
Nov. 7 in First Presbyterian Church, 1 Symphony Circle: Music by Handel ("Alexander's Feast"); Vivaldi, Bach, Schuetz and Delius (Acquarelle No. 1). The Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus will be featured, along with violinists Antoine Lefebvre, Douglas Cone and Galluzzo; cellists Nancy Anderson and Roman Mekinulov; oboists Carolyn Banham and Christine Ross; bassoonist Ronald Daniels; and clarinetists John Fullam and Patti Dilutis.
Nov. 14 in Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave.: A sparkling all-Vivaldi program, with the exception of a concerto by Baroque composer Johann David Heinicher. Soloists are horn players Muzyk and Sweeley; violinists Dmitry Gerikh and Ann Marie Terranova; oboist Paul Schlossman; and cellist Feng Hew.
Nov. 21 in Trinity Episcopal Church, 379 Delaware Ave.: A concerto by Corelli will be followed by music by Vivaldi and, to conclude, Bach's Concerto in D Minor for two violins and strings. The Bach will feature the Buffalo Suzuki Strings. The evening's soloists include violinists Cone, Galluzzo and Cindy Lin; flutist Betsy Reeds; cellist David Schmude; and, in the Vivaldi motet "Vos Aurae," soprano Quinn Patrick.
New York story
The Westminster Fine Arts Series brings lovely chamber music to Buffalo audiences, in a small and beautiful setting. Sunday, the series presents the Manhattan Music Ensemble. The group will give a concert at 4 p.m.
The Manhattan Music Ensemble consists of five musicians who perform in various groupings. Performing in Buffalo will be pianist Milana Streveza-Bahl (the daughter of the noted Russian soprano Svetlana Strezeva); violinist Dmitry Lukin; and cellist Dmitry Kousov. All Juilliard-trained, they made their debut last fall in Lincoln Center's Paul Recital Hall.
On the program will be music from the Classical and Romantic eras. It takes place at 4 p.m. Sunday in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave. Admission is $10. For more information, call 884-9437.
Who doesn't yearn to hear "Now Thank We All Our God" as it's supposed to be sung? Hear it Sunday, when the Freudig Singers, the virtuoso choir directed by Roland Martin, gives a Reformation Day concert at 3 p.m. in Calvary Lutheran Church.
The Reformation Day concert includes two cantatas by the great baroque master Dietrich Buxtehude; a psalm by Heinrich Schuetz; a Magnificat by Michael Praetorius; and "Now Thank We All Our God" from Bach's Cantata 79. Audience-participation treats are in store, too, with Martin accompanying the congregation on the organ.
The event honors the late Rev. Henry W. Bojarzin, pastor emeritus of Calvary and an accomplished musician.
The concert takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday. Calvary Lutheran Church is at 4100 North Bailey at Oxford Street. Admission is free, but a $10 donation is suggested.