Former Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Lukas Foss had a profound impact on Buffalo's position as an important center for modern classical music, and his life was celebrated in music and reminiscence Sunday afternoon at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.
What had originally been planned as a well programmed retrospective of Foss' work had, with the composer's passing on Feb. 1, evolved into an observance of his life. It wasn't really as much a solemn affair as it was a marking of time well remembered.
Charles Haupt, the former BPO concertmaster and the current driving force behind "A Musical Feast," first came to Buffalo at Foss' request and has since made his own impact on Buffalo's cultural life. It was apparent that this particular event -- from the preconcert panel discussion that featured a group of Foss' friends and associates to the actual performances of the music -- was a labor of love.
The topics covered emphasized Foss as an all-around person. Descriptive phrases like "genius" and "focused" were mixed in with tales about his driving "skills" that made him seem more approachable and human despite his impressive life as a creative musician and composer. The standing-room-only crowd was another tribute to Foss' impact on the community.
From a musical standpoint, the program was fairly linear, taking the listener through the composer's varied approaches to his art. It touched upon Foss' love of Bach's music, his mining of Renaissance-era scores for ideas and ended up with later scores that emphasized his versatility as a modernist.
Pianist Amy Williams worked both ends of that spectrum, playing the program's inaugural piece (Foss' take on Bach's "Two Part Inventions") in addition to performing in the concert's final pair of scores: "Solo" for piano and "Time Cycle." The later was a quartet of songs featuring the talented soprano Amanda DeBoer, clarinetist Jerry Kirkbride, cellist Jonathan Golove and percussionist Tom Kolor, all under the direction of Jan Williams. "Solo" featured the pianist working with a score that revealed little scurrying figures eating away at a repetitive top layer, wreaking havoc with what under other circumstances would pass for minimalism.
The other pieces on the program included the "Renaissance Concerto," a historically referential work with a twist, performed by flutist Carol Wincenc and pianist Claudia Hoca, and "For Lenny," a short piano score played by Charles Bornstein. The only non-Foss work on the program was "3 1/3 Dances," a quirky, angular bit of music by Nils Vigeland that fit well within the context of Foss' more complex and modernist settings.
"A Musical Feast"
Sunday afternoon in the Burchfield Penney Art Center.