The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has been in the headlines for holding its own, at a time when many orchestras are struggling.

But that doesn’t mean our orchestra has to play it completely safe. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2013-14 season, just announced, has a lot of surprises.

Some are sure bets. The BPO will be welcoming back the Sequinned One himself, former Principal Pops Conductor Doc Severinsen, for a sparkling evening in the fall. The concert for Mozart’s birthday, a year from now, pairs Mozart’s 24th Piano Concerto with a fascinating first for the BPO: Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Mozart and Salieri,” which Music Director JoAnn Falletta calls “a little jewel of an opera.” And a concert of bracing Bartok, to be recorded for Naxos, is paired with a Beethoven concerto featuring celebrated pianist Simone Dinnerstein.

Other off-the-beaten-track music might challenge the audience more.

Percussionist Colin Currie is playing a concerto by Jennifer Higdon. Roman Mekinulov, the orchestra’s principal cellist, is performing the world premiere of “Concierto Tango” by Miguel del Aguila, who wrote the concerto for him as a gift.

The opening gala features Yo-Yo Ma. He is not playing any of the traditional concertos, though. He is playing “Azul,” a 25-minute piece by Osvaldo Golijov.

“It’s an audience-friendly piece,” Falletta says. “It also shows that Yo-Yo is the kind of person who is never resting on his laurels. He’s always trying new things. He’s a very curious, searching, enthusiastic person. He really wanted to do this piece. He said to us, ‘This will really be a great piece for the audience.’ He’s doing the piece later that year with the New York Philharmonic. He’s happy to do it in Buffalo.”

BPO Executive Director Dan Hart has previewed the piece and gives it the thumbs-up.

“The one thing about new music these days is, people are writing in new and exciting ways,” he says. “Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean it’s not melodious, rhythmically exciting, or powerful and emotional. I think that’s the one thing JoAnn has the knack of,” he adds, alluding to Falletta’s care in choosing contemporary works. “We want to have a commitment to music of our time, contemporary composers. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean that it’s not something people want to hear. There was a time when that was the case, when it turned people off.”

Yo-Yo Ma kicks off a season of intriguing soloists. The next season promises to be a fine year for pianists. Philippe Bianconi, a success here in the past, is playing the demanding Rachmaninoff Third. Enrica Ciccarelli is playing Mozart, and Yakov Kasman is performing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Jon Kimura Parker is bringing the season to a glamorous close with Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”

Other soloists include Ricardo Morales, playing Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, and Benjamin Beilman, playing the famous violin concerto of Felix Mendelssohn. Soprano Heidi Grant Murphy, whose singing Hart admires, will be the soloist in Samuel Barber’s poignant “Knoxville: Summer of 1915.”

Hart is enthusiastic about the guest conductors. Gunther Herbig, conducting Bruckner, is heir to the great European traditions. Lawrence Rachleff is conducting a contrasting double bill of Beethoven and Ginastera. A newcomer from right down the road is Arild Remmereit, music director of the Rochester Philharmonic. Remmereit, who has been in the news recently because of his orchestra’s problems, is presenting a program rich with Wagner.

In the realm of the pops, the BPO is famous for offering the unexpected. The orchestra lives up to its reputation with an appearance by cabaret artist Ann Hampton Callaway, singing the songs of Barbra Streisand. A tribute to Ray Charles is also on tap, and an evening of cirque performers.

Perhaps the most exotic concert is a Classics concert, called “East Meets West.” The soloist is Wu Man, who plays the pipa, a four-stringed Chinese instrument. She is performing a pipa concerto by Zhao Jiping.

It is easy to believe Falletta and Hart when they say the season has something for everyone. Falletta is proud of that.

“We don’t think of it as a small orchestra trying to play everyone’s favorites,” she says. “I look at Dan and I said, you know, this could be a Cleveland Orchestra, a New York Philharmonic Orchestra program. We’re adventurous, we’re challenging the audience and giving them things they love, but also bringing in new things. Our artists are wonderful, and we’re recording interesting pieces. It’s a sophisticated season. But we could only do that in Buffalo, because our audience is so there for us.

“It makes me happy,” she adds. “I can take chances I can’t take in other places.”


The 2013-14 BPO season

Here is what’s in store next season at Kleinhans Music Hall. Concerts are at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The popular Friday morning Coffee Concerts series will also continue. For ticket information, visit or call 885-5000.


Sept. 18: For the season-opening gala, Yo-Yo Ma plays Osvaldo Golijov’s “Azul.” Falletta also conducts Stravinsky’s “Firebird” Suite.

Oct. 4 and 5: Brahms’ Symphony No. 1; “Medea’s Meditation” and “Dance of Vengeance” by Samuel Barber; and Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, with Vadim Gluzman as soloist.

Oct. 19 and 20: Clarinetist Ricardo Morales is the soloist in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. Also, Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite” and Bartok’s Suite No. 1.

Nov. 2 and 3: Arild Remmereit conducts excerpts from Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” as well as Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with Yakov Kasman as soloist.

Nov. 16 and 17: Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers is featured in a concert including Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”; Haydn’s “Miracle” Symphony; and de Falla’s “El Amor Brujo” Suite.

Nov. 22 and 23: Pianist Simone Dinnerstein plays Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Also, Enesco’s Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1; and Bartok’s “Two Portraits” and “Kossuth.”

Dec. 6 and 7: Matthew Kraemer conducts “Classic Christmas.”

Jan. 17 and 18, 2014: “Amadeus” comprises Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24, with Enrica Ciccarelli as soloist, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Mozart and Salieri.”

Feb. 1 and 2: Pianist Philippe Bianconi is the soloist in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, preceded by Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6.

Feb. 22 and 23: Guest conductor Gunther Herbig conducts Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, with Benjamin Beilman as soloist, and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8.

March 7 and 8: Guest conductor Lawrence Rachleff conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Ginastera’s “Variacones concertantes.”

March 22 and 23: Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” with soprano Heidi Grant Murphy; Vaughan Williams’ Overture to “The Wasps”; and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4.

March 29 and 30: “East Meets West” features Kraemer conducting Griffes’ “The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan”; Borodin’s “In the Steppes of Central Asia”; and Debussy’s “Nocturnes.” Wu Man is the soloist in Zhao Jiping’s Pipa Concerto.

April 11-13: Webern’s “Im Sommerwind”; Schumann’s “Rhenish” Symphony; and Korngold’s Violin Concerto, with BPO Concertmaster Michael Ludwig as soloist.

April 26 and 27: Colin Currie is the soloist in Jennifer Higdon’s Percussion Concerto. Also, Moross’ Symphony No. 1 and the American premiere of Russell Platt’s “Euridice”; and dances from Bernstein’s “West Side Story.”

May 10 and 11: Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances”; Ravel’s “La Valse”; and BPO principal cellist Roman Mekinulov performs the world premiere of Miguel Del Aguila’s “Concerto Tango.”

May 31 and June 1: Jon Kimura Parker plays Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” Also, Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” Symphony and Tcherepnin’s Prelude to “The Faraway Princess.”


Sept. 28: Bernadette Peters.

Oct. 12: ABBA: The Hits.

Oct. 25 and 26: Doc Severinsen Returns.

Nov. 9: One Singular Sensation: A Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch.

Dec. 13, 14, 15: Falletta conducts Holiday Pops.

Jan. 25, 2014: Cirque Musica, with cirque performers joining the BPO on stage.

Feb. 15: Ann Hampton Callaway’s Streisand Songbook.

March 1: The Beatles’ Classical Mystery Tour, featuring Tony Kishman as Paul McCartney.

March 15: Chris Botti.

April 5: Ellis Hall’s Tribute to Ray Charles.

May 3: Matt Catingub’s Big Band Salute.

May 23 and 24: Star-Spangled Pops.

Special events

June 7, 2014: The 2014 JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition.

– Mary Kunz Goldman