Celebrate African American artists and composers, support the Ukrainian people, introduce children to classical music, be inspired by young artists, it’s all happening at Kleinhans over the next eight days.
As we learned from the recent Buffalo-produced WNED PBS documentary, KLEINHANS’ GIFT TO BUFFALO (did you miss it? Stream the full 30 minutes for free here) the famous Kleinhans Music Hall was designed to have perfect acoustics for classical music, but was never reserved for classical concerts. And it does over the next eight-day week, starting this morning, April 2, at 10 a.m.
New for the littlest listeners, there’s a special opportunity called “BPO Little Kids” for children ages 0-5 with their caregivers to join BPO musicians and community partners in fun musical activities that are “designed specifically for little ears and growing minds”. The event is only $5 per person (tickets online bpo.org/event/bpo-grands-enfants or call 716-885-500 or just show up at the door.) The entire event lasts two hours from 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday morning, but you can come and taste anytime or stay for the program complete (program here) which will feature many BPO musicians and community partners. Activities for BPO Little Kids will be offered by: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Buffalo Suzuki Strings, Little Buffalo and Monkey See, Monkey Do… Children’s Bookstore. Again, it’s this Saturday morning, April 2, starting at 10 but show up as you can anytime before noon.
Then this Saturday night, April 2, those same musicians will reunite on the main stage with the full orchestra for a 7:30 p.m. revival of yesterday morning’s “Coffee Concert” featuring a young phenom playing a very rare cello in a concert run by someone who got him started with the BPO.
When conductor Elizabeth Schulze was deputy conductor of the BPO (1993-1995), Max Valdes was the musical director, JoAnn Falletta would not be named as her replacement for another four years, and cellist Oliver Herbert had not even been born. But classical music seems to have the ability to keep everyone young and energetic, and time stood still when young cellist GenZee Herbert sat down to play Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto. He plays a rare centuries-old Guadagnini cello (think Strads for violins) and when the first notes echoed through the superior acoustics of Kleinhans Music Hall, I knew I was hearing something different. And you can hear this wonderful machine tonight.
An analogy: There are many brands of bottled water, but do you remember what it felt like to take a sip of your favorite for the first time? Of course, it was “just water”, but somehow it seemed completely different from all the others. Many cellists have played with the BPO, but the purity of the sound coming off the stage yesterday morning was completely different. Young Oliver Herbert from San Francisco is an alumnus of the weekly radio show featuring super talented young performers called “From The Top” which can be heard Saturdays at 7:00 p.m. on local radio station WNED Classical , 94.5 FM or stream to any device. (Read below to see another “From The Top” alum come to play at Kleinhans next weekend with another “homecoming” on the podium.)
The concert, which repeats tonight at 7:30 p.m., opened with a very exciting musical description of the vibrant energy of a Harlem city block. African-American millennial composer Carlos Simon’s work titled “The Block” was inspired by African-American artist Romare Bearden’s painting of the same name at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Learn more here).
It opens much like John Adams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” and makes full use of percussion and brass. Conductor Elizabeth Schulze had the dynamics right and when the orchestra was supposed to be soft, it was and WHEN IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE LOUD…. WOW! After the intermission there was the dark melancholy of Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D Minor, an audience favourite.
Is BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta on the go? No, and she’ll be back on the podium to lead a one-night-only special this Sunday evening April 3 from 7:00 p.m. (choir pre-concert at 6:15 p.m.) that you may not be aware of.
In solidarity with the people of Ukraine, in a special one-night-only benefit concert conducted by JoAnn Falletta, BPO’s performance will feature the full orchestra performing “music that allows for moments of quiet reflection and celebrates the resilience of the spirit of the Ukrainian people, including “Melody” by Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk, “Egmont Overture” by Beethoven, Chopin’s Valse No. 2 from Suite “Les Sylphides” and “Finlandia” by Sibelius, all resounding hymns of ordeal and triumph. The concert will start at 7:00 p.m. with the Ukrainian national anthem.
In addition, BPO musicians will perform solo works with the orchestra, including Associate Principal Cellist Feng Hew performing a solemn performance of Fauré’s “Elégie pour violoncelle et orchester”; flautist Natalie Debikey Scanio with the last movement of Christopher Rouse’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra entitled ‘Àmhran’ (a Gaelic word for song); and associate concertmaster Amy Glidden, who performs the moving violin solo of John Williams’ theme, from the soundtrack to “Schindler’s List.”
The super talented Buffalo Girlchoir will perform before the concert in the Mary Seaton Hall from 6:15 p.m.
Tickets for this “Slava Ukraini” concert are general admission with a “choice of price” (suggested donation of $40 per person). All proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Ukrainian American Freedom Foundation (UAFF), an IRS 501(c)(3) recognized nonprofit charity. Since 2014, UAFF-Buffalo has shipped over 30 tons of desperately needed humanitarian and medical aid to war-torn Ukraine. To purchase tickets or simply make a donation, visit here.
Now, next weekend, there’s a series of almost “parallel universes” concerts that closely matches this weekend’s concert. Next Friday morning at 10.30 a.m. additional “Café Concert” to be repeated on Saturday evening April 9and at 7:30 p.m. in Kleinhans, the concert will open with “Motor City Remix” by African-American composer Jonathan Bailey Holland – an energetic work celebrating not the Harlem of New York, but this time the music of Detroit, the “Motor City”. . Then, next week, like this weekend, the soloist will be another young “From the Top” alumnus, in this case it will be Drew Petersen on Steinway piano with Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No.
I cannot recommend this seldom done work enough. I discovered it myself one day by chance and I was amazed that it wasn’t played more often. It’s melodic, beautiful and as delicious as you’d expect from the composer of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
Tonight, April 2, the concert will close with the dark Symphony in D minor by Cesar Franck. Next week, April 8 and 9, the concert will end with the mysterious “Scottish Symphony” by Mendelssohn. And on the podium next week? Another homecoming, this time William Eddins of Buffalo.
All events mentioned in this article will take place at Kleinhans Music Hall located at “3 Symphony Circle” Buffalo, 14201 where Porter Avenue, Richmond Avenue, North Street and Wadsworth meet at a roundabout. To visit www.bpo.org or call 716-885-5000 or for these concerts, just come to the box office. The duration of most events will be approximately 2 hours with an intermission. For Saturday night concerts, there will be a full service bar in the lobby of the Mary Seaton Hall.