JoAnn Falletta enters ‘joyful’ 25th season leading Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Saturday, JoAnn Falletta will take to the podium at Kleinhan’s Music Hall to begin her 25th season as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

And though she was raised and educated in New York City, Falletta — whose Buffalo appointment in 1998 made her the first woman to lead a major American orchestra — told News 4 she is proud to consider herself a Buffalonian.

“I can tell them what my very, very favorite compliment is — and I get it quite a lot — people come up to me and they say, ‘You’re from Buffalo, aren’t you?'” Falletta said. “And that always makes my heart smile, because that means that this city has become my own.”

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While Falletta said she feels lucky to be making music in Buffalo, the city has plenty of reasons to be lucky to have her. The Julliard-educated maestro has overseen the orchestra’s rise to prominence as a recording partner with the classical label Naxos and led the group on multiple major tours including several appearances at Carnegie Hall. But don’t expect the orchestra to rest on its laurels.

“We still have a lot of plans,” Falletta said. “Recordings, touring, commissioning, and we’re always thinking ahead two or three years.”

But before any of those future plans comes the 2023-24 season, which opens Saturday night. This year, the BPO is experimenting with a slightly shorter gala performance without an intermission that begins at 7 p.m. and will run about an hour and a half. On the program is Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and a performance of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto with guest artist Gil Shaham.

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While such recognizable standards are not uncommon for a gala performance, Falletta made it a point to load the rest of her “very joyful” anniversary season with crowd-pleasers as well. Future programs include Holst’s “The Planets,” Ravel’s Boléro and Beethoven’s ninth symphony.

“I wanted people to come in and leave the hall every concert saying, ‘That was great,'” Falletta said.

Falletta said that the people of Buffalo have shown her the importance of community.

“When I came here I was so welcomed by everyone,” Falletta said. “And I realized that the Buffalo Philharmonic was a treasure here. And we have to take care of it, and we relate to our community in a special way. I love that about life here, how people really care about the musicians of the Buffalo Philharmonic.”

Falletta joined News 4’s Jacquie Walker in studio for a live interview on News 4 at 5. You can watch the full interview in the video player above.

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Justin McMullen is a Western New York native who joined the News 4 team in 2023. You can read more of his work here.

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