Spain and the influence its music has had on European composers inspired the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s Friday night concert.
From the large pool of composers and compositions showcasing the “Spanish tinge,” conductor JoAnn Falletta ended up leading the BPO through works by two Hispanic masters – Manuel de Falla and Joaquin Rodrigo – and a pair of scores meshing Iberian idioms with those of other cultures, Emmanuel Chabrier’s “Espana” and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol”.
A suite of music drawn from de Falla’s ballet “The Three Cornered Hat” began the evening and helped, with its flamenco and folk derived rhythms, set the mood for everything that followed. The invitation to dance was palpable.
This was particularly the case in Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez,” which showcased last year’s winner of the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, Turkish guitarist Celil Refik Kaya.
The piece is one of the cornerstones of the guitar/orchestra pairing, featuring memorable themes, including a beautiful second movement Adagio that has been turned into chart-topping arrangements by Chuck Mangione and Herb Albert.
Refik Kaya played the piece from memory and the orchestra, under Falletta’s energetic guidance, gave him some wonderfully nuanced support. At the end of the piece, the audience gave the performance a standing ovation. This show of appreciation brought the guitarist back to the stage for an encore, a solo performance of a short, technically impressive piece by the early 20th century Paraguayan guitarist Augustin Barrios-Mangore.
Chabrier’s “Espana” was a trip to Spain via France in the same way that Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol” was infected by Iberian rhythms grafted onto a Slavic soul.
Both pieces are popular orchestral bonbons, the kind of things that fill out recordings and concert programs with light-weight pleasure. Both works were performed well and with considerable brio by the BPO as heads were bobbing and toes were tapping all throughout the audience.
All told, it was a good evening with plenty of highlights, especially the return of Refik Kava. And it was a nice way for the orchestra to start bidding goodbye for yet another season.
Friday’s performances were the next-to-last for the concert year, which wraps up with tonight’s 7 p.m. (free) “BPO Fantasy Camp”, a program where a select number of amateur musicians get to join the professionals in an evening of short orchestral favorites by Tchaikovsky, Copland and others.