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BPO's 2020-21 season blends the familiar with the unexpected

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's just announced 2020-21 season is stuffed to the brim with classics, new works, pops programs and returning favorites.

On the surface, the lineup appears to be doing what any competitive orchestra in a market like ours should be doing – offering a little bit of something for everyone and walking the tightrope between the wholly artistic and the consistently popular.

Peel back the veneer a bit, however, and you’ll see a meticulously planned seasonal program that is at once challenging and comforting, a sparkling blend of the familiar and the unexpected that is in keeping with the mandate of the BPO under Music Director JoAnn Falletta – to offer audiences a mélange of classics, new music, cultural collaborations and personal favorites.

“I’m very proud of the fact that we have 18 weeks of classics this season,” Falletta said in an interview in the library of the BPO’s offices earlier this week. “That’s the core of what we are. Our work in the Classical Series makes us strong for everything else that we do,” including a well-stocked Pops Series that will find major names and audience favorites like master trumpeter Chris Botti returning to Kleinhans Music Hall.

Trumpeter Chris Botti will make a return appearance with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. (Getty Images)

“We always have our audience first in mind, with the understanding that everyone has those favorite pieces that they love to hear, and we place them in there,” Falletta continued. “But the job that we have is also to surround them with some new discoveries.”

Falletta and her team have rather masterfully worked those "new discoveries” into programs that seek to fuse the seasoned with the modern in thematically linked presentations. One such program will find up-and-coming guest conductor Teddy Abrams leading the orchestra through an evening featuring Antonin Dvorak’s love letter to North America, the “New World Symphony,” and former BPO music director (and mentor to Abrams) Michael Tilson-Thomas’ “From the Diary of Anne Frank.” Another finds Falletta leading the orchestra through the dramatic wilderness of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and pairing it with the percussive luminosity of contemporary composer Joan Tower’s Pacific Northwest-themed “Sequoia.” A third Classics presentation conjoins Brahms’ Third Symphony, Wagner’s overture to “The Flying Dutchman” and Arthur Foote’s “Cello Concerto.”

“The idea is that audiences might be coming for something that has always been a favorite of theirs, but they’re learning about something that they might like even more,” Falletta said. “So presenting a big mix of the familiar and unfamiliar – that’s really the idea behind everything we do. What I think will help the orchestra grow stronger and more flexible and more independent and help them to nourish their own character and their own voice and their own sound – a lot of the repertoire is chosen with that in mind, as well.”

Highlights of the 2020-21 BPO Pops Series include a Valentine’s Day weekend performance from romantic trumpeter Chris Botti and orchestral tributes to the likes of John Denver and Whitney Houston.

Longtime BPO patrons are well aware of Kleinhans Music Hall’s status as one of the best-sounding live music venues in the country, but Falletta is quick to point out that it is indeed “the sound of this particular orchestra in this particular room that is identifiable as the BPO’s unique voice.” She points to the recent award of “Venue of the Month” honors to Kleinhans by BBC Magazine with justifiable pride.

The full Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra 2020-21 season is as follows.

Soprano Renee Fleming will perform with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in September. (Getty Images)

BPO Classics Series

Renée Fleming, 7 p.m. Sept. 25, with gala fundraiser dinner following the performance.

Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique"; Lili Boulanger’s D’un soir triste and D’un matin de printemps”; Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring pianist Sara Buechner, at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 9  and 8 p.m. Oct. 10.

Dvorak's New World Symphony; Michael Tilson-Thomas From the Diary of Anne Frank, with guest conductor Teddy Abrams, 10:30 a.m. Oct. 23, 8 p.m. Oct. 24.

Verdi’s Requiem, featuring the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and the Crane School of Music Chorus, 8 p.m. Nov. 7, 3:30 p.m. Nov. 8.

Beethoven’s Fifth; Joan Tower’sSequoia”; “The Four Sisters: Concerto for Jazz Violin and Orchestra” featuring Regina Carter, 10:30 a.m. Nov. 20, at 8 p.m. Nov. 21.

Winter Dreams, with guest conductor William Eddins, 8 p.m. Dec. 5, 2:30 p.m. Dec. 6.

Classical Christmas, 10:30 a.m. Dec. 11, 8 p.m. Dec. 12.

Brahms’ Third,Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, Arthur Foote’s "Cello Concerto," 10:30 a.m. Jan. 15, at 8 p.m. Jan. 16.

Mozart’s The Magic Flute, 8 p.m. Jan. 23, 2:30 p.m. Jan. 24.

The Trumpeter’s Call, featuring Pacho Flores performing selections from Haydn, Arturo Marquez, Daron Hagen and Rachmaninoff, Feb. 5 at 10:30 a.m., Feb. 6 at 8 p.m.

Pianist Fabio Bidini, performing Beethoven’s EmperorConcerto and Piano Concerto No. 5, Enesco’s Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1 and Kodaly’s Symphony in C, 8 p.m. Feb. 20, 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21.

Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, featuring pianist Joyce Yang, 10:30 a.m. March 5, 8 p.m. March 6.

"Classical Fireworks," featuring violinist Pavel Sporcl, 10:30 a.m. March 19, 8 p.m. March 20.

Gershwin’s "An American in Paris," Dvorak’s “American Suite,” Miklos Rozsa’s Violin Concerto featuring violinist Tianwa Yang, 10:30 a.m. April 9, 8 p.m. April 10.

Pianist Adam Golka will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mendelssohn’s "Scottish Symphony," featuring guest conductor Guillermo Figueroa; Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring pianist Adam Golka; Ernesto Cordero’s "Marianda," 8 p.m. April 24, 2:30 p.m. April 25.

Debussy & the Mermaid: Debussy’s "The Sunken Mermaid," Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 featuring violinist Phillipe Quint, 8 p.m. May 8, 2:30 p.m. May 9.

Stravinsky’s "Petruchka," Russell Platt’s Symphony: for Clyfford Still, Brahms’ Violin Concerto, featuring concertmaster Nikki Chooi, at 10:30 a.m. May 14, 8 p.m. May 15.

Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony No. 2, featuring the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, at 8 p.m. June 5, 2:30 p.m. June 6.

. . .

For a special screening of "The Nightmare Before Christmas," the BPO will perform the soundtrack live.

BPO Pops Series, featuring Principal Pops Conductor John Morris Russell

A Celebration of Hart & Hammerstein, 10:30 a.m. Oct. 2, 8 p.m. Oct. 3.

The Music of "Star Trek," 8 p.m. Oct. 17.

"The Nightmare Before Christmas,"  live performance of the score by the orchestra with accompanying film screening, 7 p.m. Oct. 30

A Tribute to John Denver, featuring Jim Curry, 8 p.m. Nov. 14

Holiday Pops, 10:30 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18, 8 p.m. Dec. 19, 2:30 p.m. Dec. 20

Whitney Houston: The Greatest Love of All, 8 p.m. Jan. 30

Chris Botti, with the BPO’s annual Sweetheart Dance in the Mary Seaton Room immediately following, 8 p.m. Feb. 13

The Prohibition Experience, featuring the music of Irving Berlin, Edith Piaf, Josephine Baker and others, 10:30 a.m. Feb. 26, 8 p.m. Feb. 27

Music from James Bond, 8 p.m. March 27

The Glenn Miller Orchestra, 10:30 a.m. April 16, 8 p.m. April 17

The Sultans of String, celebrating Spanish Flamenco, gypsy jazz, Middle Eastern folk and Cuban rhythms, 10:30 a.m. April 30, 8 p.m. May 1

The Star-Spangled Salute, featuring the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, 8 p.m. May 28, 2:30 p.m May 29

Subscription sales available now. Single performance tickets go on sale in August through

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