On a grey western New York Sunday afternoon, conductor Joann Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra gave a powerful and thought provoking performance of three works that in many ways reflected the mood of the day outside.
With composer George Tsontakis present, the BPO opened the program with “Let the River Be Unbroken”. Commissioned as a celebration for the 50th anniversary of the Alexandria Symphony, the work is a Civil War piece that was inspired by three Scottish tunes for the time.
The piece opens with a solo violinist. BPO violinist and Bluegrass fiddle player Amy Licata opens the piece from the back of the auditorium as plays as she slowly walks to the stage.
While a Civil War work, the composition also includes the death of President Abraham Lincoln with a single rifle – rim shot – that is startling even when it is expected.
But the work also offers hope in the form of a reel which is also performed by Amy Licata as she ends the piece the way it began – the solo fiddler walking up the aisle and out of the auditorium.
Korean piano virtuoso Hye-Jin Kim joins the BPO for a performance of Peter Illych Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op 23”.
While many piano concertos feature the pianist, Tchaikovsky’s first Concerto has the pianist dominating the work and Kim performed the piece with technical perfection as her hands continually moved up and down the keyboard in a workout worthy of an aerobics class.
After the intermission, the BPO returned for a performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, Op 100”.
Written under Stalin’s rule in 1944, Prokofiev’s fifth symphony defies the rules of the day to create uplifting works that gives praise to Communist rule.
Instead the work in four movements reads ore like the soundtrack to a modern day thriller movie with the spymaster first skulking about in the shadows and upon discovery a chase ensues. Escaping the chase, the spymaster hides and in the lull plans the escape, and finally the escape…only to discover all was lost.
It was a powerful afternoon of music that left much to ponder for the audience members in attendance; thoughts that go beyond the music.