Well, that was certainly a close call.
The BPO was scheduled to perform Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concerto in modo galante” for cello and orchestra this weekend but there was a snag in the process getting to that point. Cellist Asier Polo’s flight from Spain to the United States was upended by an untimely bit of bureaucratic red tape vis-à-vis a visa.
There’s a good possibility that a touch of panic colored the situation since the timing of Polo’s problem with officialdom impacted the orchestra’s timeline to remedy their unexpected plight.
The Rodrigo piece – along with Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance” (an excerpt from the composer’s ballet “El Amor Brujo”) – was supposed to anchor the first half of the concert before Ludwig van Beethoven’s hard charging Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”) took top bill in the program’s second half.
Luckily, the BPO probably had a contingency list of soloists (and scores) that they could turn to in the event of just such an emergency because Music Director JoAnn Falletta posted a notice on her Facebook page thanking pianist Adam Golka for agreeing “to come to Buffalo to perform Mozart Piano Concerto #21 on 12 hours notice!”
So Golka made it to town just in time to take part in the Friday rehearsal and help patch the hole in Saturday’s program. You could say that serendipity was involved but that would be more of a post-fact observation than a real-time one.
The end result was relatively seamless in its delivery because Golka is an amazing pianist and Mozart’s 21st piano concerto is one of the gems of the repertoire with a lovely and lyrical second movement that the musicians played with the kind of professional elan that speaks well for their collective talents.
Despite the hubbub surrounding the Mozart for Rodrigo switcheroo and the attendant successful resolution, the rest of the program remained in sharp focus.
In Falla’s “Fire Dance,” the buzzing bee-like lower strings were set against the winds and brass before the percussion and rest of the string section flexed their musical muscles in the short, quick-paced starter for the sonic fire to come.
The concert concluding ecstatic blaze of Beethoven’s third symphony was probably the reason why so many of the evening’s patrons were in their seats in the first place. As Maestra Falletta noted in her brief pre-concert talk, “This is the piece that changed the [music] world.”
Back in the day, the “Eroica” was a conflagration of ideas rarely bundled into such an inflammatory package. A couple years after Beethoven conducted the symphony’s premiere, a Berlin-based reviewer noted that the piece was ”full of originality; it is abundant and even excessive in its harmony, but also full of bizarre ideas ... ”
The BPO grasped the composer’s big gestures. There were ecstatic ebbs and flows of musical emotions as the vast dynamic range of orchestral timbres mashed scurrying strings into big, brass enunciated, themes and surprisingly dramatic subtleties.
It all left you wanting more and that’s what live music should do.