On Sunday afternoon, JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra ended yet another summer season of playing great music at Artpark. The program was a solid send-off, mixing a promise for the future with looks at the past.
First, some of the players on the stage were pretty young and were probably nowhere to be found on the orchestra's employment rolls. It sounded as if they fit right in with their elders, following Falletta's lead and performing well enough to make that experience a worthwhile one for player and audience alike. The conductor even urged some of them to stand and be recognized by the audience for their work at the conclusion of the program.
Second, Pablo Garibay -- the soloist in Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's first guitar concerto (op. 99) and the winner of the 2006 JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Competition -- showed plenty of promise despite a brief snafu in the work's concluding movement, which was handled with considerable understanding and grace.
After the first half of the concert, which included Garibay's showcase and an exciting run-through of "Capriccio Espagnol," Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's superbly orchestrated, pot-boiling crowd pleaser, the orchestra settled in to play Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E minor (aka "From the New World").
Most recognizable of the symphony's elements is the Largo (second movement), which was adapted by one of Dvorak's former students, William Arms Fisher, who also created the text for the resulting piece and included it under the title of "Goin' Home" in a collection of songs he put together called "Seventy Negro Spirituals."
Since that time, "Goin' Home" has found a life in the jazz repertoire, where artists as varied as pianist Art Tatum and avant garde saxophonist Archie Shepp have recorded their versions of the basic melody.
Still, it would be remiss to ignore the beauty of the Largo when heard within the context of Dvorak's original orchestral vision. It is the perfect musical setup for the churning power of the third movement's Molto vivace markings and the final bundle of musical energy that concludes the work. Certainly Falletta and the BPO succeeded in doing everything possible to make the performance utterly marvelous.
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Dvorak's New World Symphony featuring Pablo Garibay on Sunday in Artpark Mainstage Theater.