Eric Huebner, assistant professor of music at the University at Buffalo, has an eye for our town’s unique spaces. Occasionally, Huebner has his piano students run through their repertoire in Allentown in the Pausa Art House, as a wine- and beer-sipping audience looks on. He also has dreamed up a concert series called “Music in Buffalo’s Historic Places.”
One historic space that has played host to Huebner’s series is the Darwin Martin House, and Huebner is looking forward to returning there at some point soon. Tonight, though, he is zeroing in on another venue – a space so prominent that its historic status sort of hides in plain sight.
His concert tonight will be in Kleinhans Music Hall.
And there is a twist. The audience, instead of sitting in the seats, will be on folding chairs, on stage with the musicians. They will be able to hear every subtlety as the musicians – Huebner, clarinetist Jean Kopperud, violinist Yuki Numata Resnick, trumpeter Jon Nelson and cellist Jonathan Golove – play a series of solo Sequenzas of Luciano Berio.
“We sort of looked at the space, and I think it’s going to work really beautifully,” Huebner said. “Those pieces are so dramatic, with such a dynamic range. Just the instrument playing will kind of fill the hall. People can take it in and enjoy it.”
The audience, seated in a semicircle, will be close to the musicians. The entire group will be alone together in a large space. “Rather than a small space, where the intensity of music can be overwhelming,” Huebner reasoned.
Though Berio’s Sequenzas are challenging, often pushing the limits of the instruments, the intimate setting might prove calming for Huebner. His career takes him all over the place.
He is a staff pianist for the New York Philharmonic, which keeps him busy. In February, he accompanied the orchestra on a tour of Asia. Earlier this month, he joined them four nights in a row for Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd.”
For several years his life has ricocheted between Buffalo and New York City, where he has been involved in a number of offbeat musical projects. (Among the accolades he earned was praise on Twitter from New Yorker critic Alex Ross. “Devilishly beautiful playing,” Ross tweeted.)
One recent project of Huebner’s involves a new book of piano etudes of Roger Reynolds. Reynolds will be in town Wednesday when Huebner, in conjunction with the Slee Sinfonietta, joins two other pianists in navigating six of the pieces.
The pianists joining him are Stephen Gosling and Steven Beck. “It’s a kind of continuous, almost cyclical, performance of these six etudes,” Huebner said. The performance of the etudes, written expressly for him and the other pianists, is a world premiere. The orchestra, conducted by James Baker, also will perform music of Edgard Varèse.