Falletta, BPO, and chorus “arise again” in a once-in-a-lifetime performance at Kleinhans.

Runtime: 90 minutes

This is a review of the June 1st performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, known popularly as “The Resurrection Symphony” (not Mahler’s title).  It is a work that in its development, met with some resistance. But let me start with Beethoven, in particular his three Opus 59 quartets, not appreciated by his contemporaries in 1806, prompting Beethoven to remark: “They are not for you but for a later age!”  That age may have come along, for Beethoven, perhaps 100 to 200 years later.  How’s that?  Recently BPO cellist Robbie Hausmann told the Buffalo Chamber Music Society audience that Beethoven’s Opus 59 (Opus 59, No. 2, if you’re interested) is the most often performed quartet on their series, this year 100 years old. 

(Speaking of BPO cellists, the concert last night began with JoAnn Falletta conducting the sorrowful, spiritual, beautiful “Nimrod” variation by Elgar in memory of cellist Monte Hoffman who had been with the orchestra for 55 years.)

So for Beethoven we are that “later age.”  And I submit, after last night’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, for Mahler we are also that “later age.”  I believe it and those of us lucky enough to be in a packed Kleinhans Music Hall believe it.  

Mahler’s popularity in America began to rise in the 1960s when (JoAnn Falletta’s once-upon-a-time mentor) Leonard Bernstein made a complete recording set of all nine Mahler symphonies.  He repeated that in the 1980s with new digital recording technology.  And the result is that Mahler symphonies show up regularly, not just in Buffalo.

Photo courtesy BPO

The second symphony requires huge forces, at Kleinhans there were 200 performers on and off stage, with almost every section beefed up, doubling up or even more, adding many extra woodwind instruments, tons of brass, two sets of tympani, two harps, and two soloists – Mezzo-soprano Susan Platts and soprano Ilana Davison.  Do you believe an organ, too? and an off-stage (think “distant” as in heavenly) brass choir plus a rack of 10-foot chimes in the balcony (closer to heaven?)  Add in the choir, prepared by Adam Luebke, silent for the first four movements, but by God, ready to unleash a wall of sound equal to that giant orchestra as they sang Mahler’s original text, which translates (translation provided as supertitles on the screen above the orchestra) as: “Rise again, yes, rise again, / Will you, my heart, in an instant! / What you have conquered, / To God shall it carry you!”  

Regardless of your theology, if you attend this Sunday, your heart will rise.

One reason why Mahler may not have caught on right away is that often his symphonies, and definitely this one, change mood constantly.  And it occurred to me that from listening to movie scores all our lives, our “later age” audiences are not only accepting of that but actually hungry for it.  One thing I learned about movie composers long ago is how quickly they can establish a new mood, sometimes with just a phrase.  Well, that’s one theory, but honestly, I can’t explain what happened last night.  It was one of those magic moments that I hope can be repeated on Sunday.  

A chorus member said it best: “We were instructed to open our music folders when the fifth movement started [that’s about 50 minutes into the work], and I couldn’t believe it when everyone around me started opening them. How could we have gotten to the fifth movement already? I was so engaged with watching and listening that the time flew by.”  When a 77-minute symphony “flies by” you know that all the elements were in sync.  Bravo JoAnn, musicians, chorus…everyone.

The audience went wild.  The orchestra applauded the chorus.  The chorus applauded the orchestra.  The all applauded the vocal soloists.  Everyone was happy.  As I believe Mahler intended, it was a glimpse of heaven.

It’s been a whirlwind spring for the chorus, most recently singing in Beethoven’s 9th, then the Memorial Day concert, and now Mahler’s 2nd.  It looks like they’ll be just as busy next year, performing with the BPO, plus their “Lyrics of Life” concerts starting with “The Poet’s Voice” at Asbury Hall, then “Messiah” at both the Basilica and St. Mary’s in Swormville, and “A Whitman Symphony” with the Buffalo Chamber Players in Hamburg in June 2025 (see photo of their poster).

And for the BPO, the classics season may be over, but there’s one more orchestra concert at Kleinhans a week away. It’s not categorized as “Pops,” but it looks like a lot of fun; it’s not “BPO Kids,” but the music looks like the very kid-friendly “Spooktacular” Hallowe’en shows; and it’s not “Classics” but composers Berlioz, Grieg, Mussorgsky, Saint-Saëns and Stravinsky are on the program. It’s one night only, the “Symphony of Illusions” 

to be led by Assistant Conductor Fernanda Lastra on Saturday, June 8, at 7:30 pm.

There’s a full line up of summer concerts, too, many free, some ticketed, most outdoors, some inside (including Artpark!).  For a complete schedule, click here:

And the BPO Broadcasts on WNED Classical are back again this year! You’re invited to tune in each Tuesday from July 2 to September 3 at 7:00 pm for weekly BPO concert broadcasts on WNED Classical, curated and introduced by JoAnn Falletta in conversation with me, Peter Hall. Listen at 94.5 FM,, or via the WNED Classical mobile app.

Kleinhans Music Hall is at “3 Symphony Circle” Buffalo, 14201 where Porter Avenue, Richmond Avenue, North Street and Wadsworth meet at a traffic circle.  Visit or call 716-885-5000.  Full-service bar in the lobby or across the lobby in the Mary Seaton Room.  Masks are optional.

The post Falletta, BPO, and chorus “arise again” in a once-in-a-lifetime performance at Kleinhans. appeared first on Buffalo Rising.

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