Sun 3 Jun 2018

A crashing, dramatic end to the BPO's Classics season

The Buffalo Philharmonic's Classics season is going out with a bang.

For sheer crowd appeal, it is hard to beat the final program. Music Director JoAnn Falletta is conducting Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" and Ottorino Respighi's "The Fountains of Rome" and "The Pines of Rome" ... what is not to love? No wonder a big crowd turned out for the Saturday night concert, the first of two.

The evening began with a novelty, Three Symphonic Preludes after Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex," by the Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti, who was born in 1880 and died in 1968. The music was romantic and lush, a pleasure to listen to even if it was largely abstract and a challenge to grab on to at first hearing. The orchestra approached it with delicacy, and there was magical playing by the woodwinds and strings.

The piano soloist in the Rachmaninoff, Benedetto Lupo, performed with the Philharmonic some years ago and impressed Buffalo then with his virtuosity and quiet command. On this occasion, too, he strode out with confidence. You knew the Rachmaninoff would be in good hands, and it was.

The orchestra, too, distinguished itself. The performance was full of dash and fire. From the start, the "Rhapsody" was full of nervous energy and, when the time came for it, stomping momentum. Timing was exquisite. Every little sound effect came exactly at the right time, and it all sounded natural, not forced.

Mary Kunz Goldman