NEW YORK – Gliere’s Symphony No. 3, which the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will be tackling tonight at Carnegie Hall, is big. That’s one reason the orchestra was accepted for Carnegie Hall’s prestigious Spring for Music Festival.
But there is something bigger than that symphony.
That is the wave of Buffalonians following the BPO to New York City to cheer it on, the way fans cheer on the Bills and the Sabres.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said David Sullivan of Salt Lake City, Utah. Sullivan is a fan of Gliere, a Russian composer whose Symphony No. 3 is rarely performed.
He flew to Buffalo from Utah last weekend to attend the BPO’s performances of Gliere’s symphony at Kleinhans Music Hall, even thanking BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta for programming the seldom-heard piece. He will also be there at Carnegie Hall.
Sullivan was amazed to see signs at the Buffalo airport wishing the BPO good luck. He said it was unusual to see the kind of support that the BPO sees from the Buffalo community. “In Salt Lake City,” he said, “we still have people who walk out during ‘The Rite of Spring.’ ”
More than 2,200 tickets had been sold by Tuesday night, when BPO fans and donors rallied at a cocktail party at the headquarters of CNN Studios on Columbus Circle in Manhattan.
The ticket sales are close to a record for Spring for Music, an annual festival at Carnegie Hall that features orchestras from across America playing unusual repertoire. Carnegie Hall seats 2,800, so hopes are glimmering for a possible full house.
For those who cannot attend the performance this evening, New York’s classical music station WQXR will be broadcasting the concert live and streaming it live online.
Ange Fatta, who led the recent successful endowment campaign for the orchestra, stood happily amid the festivities Tuesday. The BPO has had a balanced budget for seven out of the last eight years, and the orchestra’s return to Carnegie Hall seems to echo that success.
“We’re in good shape,” Fatta said. “But the orchestra field is tenuous, and we can’t get cocky. We can’t relax.”
“However,” he added with a smile, “tonight and tomorrow, it’s OK to be relaxed.”
The crowd at the CNN party included Buffalonians from across the board. Andras and Connie Vari, a Hungarian-American couple, had gone to the BPO’s minifestival of Hungarian music and now were in New York. “We’re so proud of the orchestra,” said Connie Vari. “There are so many people here from Buffalo.”
Their early-morning Jet Blue flight had been full of Buffalonians bound for Carnegie Hall, and so was the flight after that. The planned influx of Buffalonians was noted last weekend in the New York Times, which opined that Buffalo deserved a kind of civic achievement award.
Most Buffalonians seemed at home in the Big Apple. Many have been to Carnegie Hall many times, and more than a few had been here for the orchestra’s last appearance in the hall, in 2004.
Joyce Wilson recalled how emotional that last concert was.
“I remember how JoAnn Falletta, after the concert, was greeting people,” she said. She recalled Falletta giving an impromptu talk. “She was so overwhelmed,” she said. “She was more than crying. She was sobbing.”
Falletta was beaming at the CNN party in the company’s cafeteria, which has a stunning view overlooking the trees and greenery in Central Park.
She saluted the musicians’ hard work. “This symphony is rarely performed, and we can see why,” she joked, as the crowd of about 150 people burst out laughing.
More seriously, she greeted the supporters who filled the room. “It means a great deal that we represent people who care about the orchestra,” she said. “I can’t tell you how it’s going to feel when we look out tomorrow night and see you there.”
One of the people in the crowd was her husband, Robert Alemany. An accomplished clarinetist, Alemany will be playing in the orchestra tonight. The Gliere symphony requires extra musicians, one reason it is seldom performed.
Such are the symphony’s difficulties that some of the musicians would discuss them only off the record. Alemany was modest discussing his part in the music.
“Some of the other parts are more difficult,” he said. “Mine isn’t overwhelming. It’s satisfying to play. I’m a big fan of the piece. When you play a piece in the orchestra, it’s a different experience from what you have in the audience. It’s like being in the middle of a great stereo system.”