In classical music, 2013 will go down as the year the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra returned to Carnegie Hall – and took the whole city along.
At least that is what it felt like. The concert, part of Carnegie Hall’s Spring For Music Festival, broke records for hometown attendance. Thousands more Buffalonians listened to the concert on the radio – a broadcast that was heard around the world. Buffalo celebrities made the trip to New York. And everyone, I think, felt proud.
As well we should. The orchestra pulled off a massive, complicated symphony by Russian composer Reinhold Gliere, an artistic achievement that drew worldwide notice. The Gliere Society got involved, and the late composer’s relatives in Russia tuned in.
On the home front, the story had even warmer implications. It shows the city spirit that embraces our classical music scene. It’s the reason we have more choruses and community orchestras than other towns, and it is one reason the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is doing well while other cities’ orchestras are not. (The year 2013 was not kind to the Minnesota Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic and other institutions.)
The BPO’s endowment goes a long way toward securing its financial future. But community goodwill is another factor. BPO Music Director JoAnn Falletta goes the distance to reach out to audiences. While the orchestra’s programming is creative and adventurous, it keeps the public’s wishes in mind.
There is cooperation among musicians, board and management. Institutions in Buffalo work together. Beyond that is a spirit of unity in Buffalo that crosses boundaries and creates excitement. All of these factors helped make 2013 a very good year.
At the BPO, former Principal Pops Conductor Doc Severinsen returned, making a splash both by his presence and by bringing his big band to town for the first time. Star cellist Yo-Yo Ma played at the opening gala, and the city turned out. It was a stellar year for violinists. We were visited by Vadim Gluzman, Augustin Hadelich and Anne Akiko Meyers; all playing priceless violins. Michael Ludwig, the BPO’s concertmaster, did an exquisite job with the violin concerto of Karl Goldmark.
The Buffalo Chamber Music Society, which continues to prosper, celebrated its 90th anniversary. The series opened with a concert by the Attacca Quartet, led by Amherst violinist Amy Schroeder and playing music by Amherst native Christopher Rogerson. The University at Buffalo’s Slee Hall played host to a memorable multimedia tribute to Leonard Bernstein.
Nickel City Opera chalked up another successful year with Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” and is laying the groundwork for an upcoming production called “Shot!” Written by Persis Vehar, the opera will be about the McKinley assassination.
The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus has been stabilizing under the direction of its new leader, Erin Freeman. Meanwhile, many of the singers who left following the dismissal of the former conductor, Doreen Rao, have reorganized as the Buffalo Master Chorale. This town seems big enough for both groups.