Their final performance before leaving for the Beethoven Festival and a week long tour of Poland, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra featured a concert of American composers George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.

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The musical selections from Gershwin and Bernstein will also be on the performance program for the BPO in Poland.

The concert opened with the “Symphony No. 1, Op 9” by American composer Samuel Barber Then guest pianist Conrad Tao joined the BPO for a performance of the Gershwin “Concerto in F Major for Piano and Orchestra”.

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Written after Gershwn’s triumphant fusion of Jazz and Classical music in “Rhapsody in Blue”, Gershwin wanted to prove that he too could orchestrate his own compositions. Unlike many piano compositions where the piano is the focus of the piece and the orchestra is the accompaniment, but with Gershwin’s Concerto in F blends the two so that the piano becomes a part of the orchestra.

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A difficult composition for the piano, Tao performed the work with ease. An animated performer, Tao at times nearly came off of the piano bench and bent so low over the piano that his face almost touched the keys.

Greeting the crowd with a, “hi everybody,” Tao noted that this was a return visit to Buffalo to perform with the BPO and said that he did not recall whether he had performed the same encore the last time he was here. Saying he had, “no memory,” – which drew laughter from the crowd – Tao announced that he would play the “Catenaires for Piano” by the Contemporary American composer Elliott Carter. Tao’s fingers flew across the keys as he played.

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Conrad Tao is joining the BPO on their trip to Poland where he will reprise his performance of the Gershwin Concert in F.

After the intermission, the BPO returned to the stage for a debut performance of the “Adagio” from “Symphony No 3” by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderescki.

The BPO Concluded the show with an all instrumental performance of the “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein. The nine part piece gives a musical overview of the story from the musical – a modern day Puerto Rican “Romeo and Juliet”.

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Conductor Joann Falletta and the BPO left the stage to a standing ovation and uproarious applause from the audience for a proper send off on their trip to Poland.

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