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Acclaimed electric bass player to perform signature piece with BPO

Victor Wooten, one of the best electric bass players of all time, will join the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra this weekend and will perform a piece composed just for him.

"Victor is a very unique artist," said BPO Resident Director Stefan Sanders. "There is no one who can do what he does on the electric bass. His reputation certainly precedes him.

"I cannot wait to meet him, and perform this very interesting piece that has been written specifically for him," he said.

Sanders does not know whether the BPO has featured other electric bassists in classical concerts; he thinks that Wooten is unique in that regard. But he explained that "part of what orchestras are trying to do in this day and age is broaden their audience.

"This has prompted the whole industry, including the people that write music for orchestras, to experiment with the types of artists that they feature on their stage," said Sanders, who has been with the BPO since 2014.

"A few years ago, the BPO presented this incredible ukulele player, Jake Shimabukuro. A few years earlier, they featured this woman playing a traditional Chinese folk instrument," he said.

"The idea of featuring non-traditional instruments with the orchestra in the classics series is all part of the organization and the industry’s desire to broaden their audience," Sanders said. The orchestra hopes to attract Wooten fans and to engage them with the BPO.

For the concerts, which will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Wooten will play a Concerto for Electric Bass composed by Conni Ellisor. "The piece for Victor is called ‘The Bass Whisperer,’ " Sanders said.

"It’s in three movements." The piece starts with a slow, introductory movement. The following one has a quicker tempo. "The second movement’s quite beautiful. I believe that he is going to be using a bow on his electric bass, which I cannot wait to hear and see," he said. The third movement has a style quite different from that of the first two. "The last movement is this virtuosic, rhythmic movement."

The orchestra will also play two pieces by prominent Russian composers.

"The first comes from (Alexander) Borodin," Sanders said. The BPO will play the "Polovtsian Dances," "music from an opera that he wrote called ‘Prince Igor.’ " The piece consists of "incredibly beautiful, lush melodies, " said Sanders. "It’s just wonderful music."

"In fact, one of the melodies in these ‘Polovtsian Dances’ was later borrowed and turned into a very popular song from the first half of the 20th century, called ‘Strangers in Paradise,’ " he said. "People will probably recognize that as soon as they hear it."

In the second half of the program, the orchestra will play a piece by the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. "This is music from a film score that he wrote," said Sanders. "The name of the film was ‘Alexander Nevsky.’ The movie is all about this Russian hero who lived in the 13th century and was very important in bringing together the people of Russia."

"The film music was so great, that Prokofiev decided to turn it into a piece for the concert hall, independent of the film. It’s called the ‘Alexander Nevsky Cantata.’ It’s written for a very large orchestra and chorus, and one movement features a mezzo-soprano or alto vocal solo. It’s amazing music," he said.

"Prokofiev is one of the great composers for the modern orchestra. He really knew how to get all these interesting colors out of the instruments, and with different combinations, that the audience is really going to find quite special."

Dana Nigrin is a sophomore at Nichols School.


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