Continuing to celebrate 20 years of Joann Falletta as the musical director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra the BPO went to the non-traditional side for their program on November16 & 17.

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It has long been the belief that women could not create powerful classical compositions because they could only write fluff. Becoming the first female American composer to reach international recognition, Joan Tower proved the theory wrong.

Opening the program with Town’s “Tambor”, Joan Falletta got a workout that left her breathless. Spanish for drum, the “Tambor” also gave the percussion section quite a workout as the piece featured many of the section’s instruments including the chimes and marimba.

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Originally composed for the piano by Modest Petrovich Mussorsky, “Pictures at an Exhibition” is the music interpretation of an art exhibit featuring 10 painting by Victor Hartmann and one movement for each painting.

French composer Maurice Ravel re-arranged “Pictures” for the orchestra and it is this arrangement performed by orchestras including the BPO.

Seventies rockers Emerson, Lake, and Palmer recorded the piece and made it popular among modern rock fans.

During the intermission the stage was turned around and set up with a piano, drums set, and amps for a special performance by R.E.M. bass player Mike Mills and violinist Robert McDuffie.

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Before the performance began, Mills told the crowd that since the piece was not a traditional classical music piece the normal classical music rules did not apply; therefore, anyone who wished to express themselves was free to do so.

The “Concerto for Rock Band, Violin, and String Orchestra” is a piece in six movement that could easily be six instrumental songs played back to back. And with titles like “Pour it Like You Mean It”, “On the Okeefenokeef”, “Sunny Side Up”, “Stardancer’s Waltz”, “Nightswiming”, and “You Can Go Home Again” it is easy to imagine them as individual songs.

The composition had little in common with classical music other than it was backed by an orchestra. The Concerto was more like a fusion of Rock and New Age music. Mills, McDuffie, and the band rocked Kleinhans in a way seldom seen for a Classical Music venue.

The band reprised a piece of the Concerto for an encore performance.

What began as a light crowd, turned out to be a full house of music fans who had braved the first snowstorm of the season to see and hear a fusion of traditional Classical music and some good ole Rock and Roll.

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