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Fresh melodies BPO summer series features young artists in the open air

Ah, the beauty of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's summer parks concerts! You don't have to pay. You can tote along takeout wings, iced tea, whatever your little heart desires. Best of all, you get to hear music in the open air, surrounded by the glory of a Buffalo summer.

This year, the BPO is presenting six concerts in natural settings. Conducting all the concerts will be Maestro Paul Ferington, as well as BPO Apprentice Conductor Stefan Sanders.

Two up-and-coming performers add special cachet. Violinist Ana Lia Vafai and harpist Lara Somogyi are both winners of the 2007 Eleanor Millonzi Scholarship presented by the BPO Volunteer Foundation. Somogyi is scheduled to play Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concierto Serenata for Harp and Orchestra" at two concerts, and Vafai is going to appear at a number of other concerts, playing the Violin Concerto No. 1 by the Romantic composer Max Bruch.

The two young women both boast careers off to a good start.

Vafai, a violinist at City Honors School, is concertmistress of the City All-Buffalo Youth Orchestra and a member of the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra. A student of BPO violinist Robert Prokes, she also won top scholarships from the Buffalo Chamber Music Society and the Erie County Music Educators Association.

Somogyi, a harpist from Orchard Park High School, has been studying harp for nine years. She is Principal Harpist with the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra and performed with the group in Carnegie Hall. At 12, she enrolled in the Eastman School of Music's Pre-College program, and she will enter the music conservatory at Eastman this fall.

Here is the schedule:

*7 p.m. Tuesday (Rain date, July 11): At the Erie County Botanical Gardens, a program includes Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2, "Romantic," as well as selections from "West Side Story." Somogyi is the featured soloist.

*7 p.m. Thursday (Rain date, July 11): The BPO visits Goat Island. Program is the same as above, but Vafai will be the soloist, performing the Bruch concerto.

*7:30 p.m. July 4: The BPO visits Lyndonville High School's soccer field. (Rain location: Lyndonville High Auditorium): Vafai is the featured soloist. The program includes Dvorak's "American" Suite in A, John Williams' music from "E.T.," Hanson's "Romantic" Symphony and the finale from Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," as well as excerpts from "West Side Story."

*7 p.m. July 10: In one of their most popular concerts, the BPO takes to the center of Bidwell Parkway, at the corner of Elmwood Avenue. The night includes music from Stravinsky's "The Firebird" and from Glinka's "Russlan and Ludmilla" as well as Dvorak's "American Suite" and excerpts from "West Side Story." Vafai performs the Bruch concerto.

*11:45 a.m. July 12: The BPO's annual lunchtime concert at M&T Plaza features Vafai playing Bruch, as well as many of the other pieces of music mentioned above.

*7 p.m. July 24: At Batavia's Centennial Park, Somogyi is the soloist, playing the Rodrigo concerto. Other selections include Leroy Anderson's "Summer Skies and music from Stravinsky's "The Firebird."

e-mail: mkunz@buffnews.com

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