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PROGRAM FROM 3 NATIONS LIGHTS UP 'LATIN FIRE'

Concert review

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra with harpist Yolanda Kondonassis

Saturday in Kleinhans Music Hall

The program will be repeated today at 2:30 p.m.

This weekend the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is undertaking a really interesting project, bringing together works by composers from Brazil (Heitor Villa-Lobos), Argentina (Alberto Ginastera), and Spain (Manuel de Falla) and entitling the resulting program "Latin Fire."

The concert notes ballyhoo the "flamboyant melodies, flashy rhythms and sultry harmonies" of the three composers, but mere adjectives only hint at the possibilities such a proposal delivers.

Maestro Fabio Mechetti led the orchestra through its paces Saturday night after delivering an enlightening and humorous pre-concert talk about what the audience was about to experience. His commentary on de Falla's "Three-Cornered Hat" was particularly noteworthy. This ballet, filled with folk-influenced rhythms and tunes, is one of the composer's most popular scores and filled with enough verve, energy and sheer melodic content to please even the most jaded concertgoer.

Ginastera doesn't show up on very many concert programs and it is a rare treat to hear his Harp Concerto in a live performance. This is not the kind of music one usually associates with the harp, however, and Yolanda Kondonassis, one of the finest of a rare breed -- the touring harp virtuoso -- has taken on one of the thorniest works written for her instrument.

Kondonassis' performance was excellent throughout, and her playing of the cadenza leading into the concerto's third movement was a thing of beauty.

Villa-Lobos is probably the best-known composer that Brazil has given birth to, but he was also one of the most prolific generators of musical material during the 20th century. The totality of his nine "Bachianas Brasileiras" pieces for various-sized forces are worthwhile experiments inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach and Brazilian folk rhythms.

Still, there are often moments in the individual compositions where inspiration gives way to blandness. Such is the case with the fourth in the "Bachianas Brasileiras" canon. While the last two sections of the score have a certain beguiling rhythmic vitality, the front pair, no matter how lush the writing for strings, finds the thematic material lasting longer than a tiresome movie trailer.

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