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Master works Buffalo Chamber Music celebrates youthful pieces

We think of them as "old masters." But the old masters were young once, and it was then that they wrote some of their best music.

Good music has always been, and continues to be, written by the young.

Thursday, the Buffalo Chamber Players celebrates the music of youth through the centuries. The music includes the Trio in C Minor by the twentysomething, hotheaded Ludwig van Beethoven. And a suite for viola and double bass by Reinhold Gliere.

The concert also features the winners of the Chamber Players' composition competition.

Determining the winners took some work, says Janz Castelo, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra viola player who leads the Chamber Players, a diverse and evolving group involving many of his colleagues in the BPO.

The contest drew more than 40 entries, from countries including Canada, France, Japan and South Korea.

Finally the judges settled on Michael Gilbertson, a Juilliard grad now doing post-graduate work at Yale University. Gilbertson has turned out some astonishing work (for one particularly accessible example, go to YouTube and check out his exuberant neo-medieval choral piece, "Hodie"). His winning entry for Thursday's concert is "Music For an Imaginary Ballet."

In a surprise move, the Chamber Players named a runner-up, Erin Tomkins' "Images of Water."

"Erin's piece was so strong that we added an honorable mention," says Castelo. Tomkins' piece, he says, could make you think of French Impressionist music.

Both compositions are for unusual ensembles. Gilbertson's is for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and cello, and Tomkins' is for flute, oboe and clarinet.

Castelo appreciates the pieces' playability and humanity.

"People forget that human beings have to play this music. We're not computers. They're great pieces, they're very playable too. Some composers forget the human element," he says. "We have to like it, we have to be able to play it, we have to know that the audience is going to enjoy them."

One stipulation is that the winning composer be present. The Chamber Players pay for their winners' transportation to Buffalo, and give them enough time to see a little of the town.

"Neither of them has been here before," Castelo says, adding he is sure they will enjoy Buffalo. "I'm always floored by how large and vibrant our arts community is. Buffalo is very passionate about the arts."

At Thursday's concert, the Chamber Players will announce the 2012-2013 season. Castelo wants to hold off on the details, aside from saying that the season includes Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire" and, inspired by that piece, involves a moon theme.

There are other bright things, too, in the future.

"We've got pretty ambitious plans," Castelo says. "We're going to be naming an executive director for the first time. We're going to increase our budget. I think we're ready for it. It's all been organic. We haven't rushed anything. But we're ready to take it to the next step. It's a really exciting time for the Chamber Players."



WHO: The Buffalo Chamber Players

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Buffalo Seminary 205 Bidwell Parkway

ADMISSION: $15 general, $5 students