Stunning violin virtuosity, Hristova encores with BPO tonight at Kleinhans

A Sunday of smaller concerts around town featuring BPO players, singers, and Shakespearian actors

Friday morning, repeating this Saturday evening May 14 at 7:30 pm at Kleinhans, the program is called “Reflections on Rachmaninoff” featuring that composer’s “Symphonic Dances” (a high-energy work completed right here in Buffalo).  The special guest star is violinist Bella Hristova and her 1655 Nicoló Amati violin playing a contemporary work by her husband, composer David Ludwig.  

I’ve heard some great violinists in my life, and even recently was wowed by the BPO’s concertmaster Nikki Chooi and this season Augustin Hadelich, and the list goes on with Perlman and Shaham, etc., but I wasn’t prepared for how violinist Bella Hristova (whom I’ve also heard before at Kleinhans) was going to play the concerto written by her husband.  

Called up on stage by Music Director JoAnn Falletta before we heard his piece, composer David Ludwig told us that the concerto was originally commissioned to be celebrating his marriage to Hristova.  He thought that was not quite right, so he expanded it to be a celebration for all marriages.  And this – composer, violinist – was, as they say, “a marriage made in heaven.”  I’ve heard dazzling runs played on violins, but never ones as seamless as these.  It’s a fun piece, easy to listen to, and fans of another American composer’s Violin Concerto, Samuel Barber, might hear parallels, including beautiful, lyrical slow passages, and a lightning-fast finale. 

I was also reminded of a conversation I had once with another American composer, John Corigliano, who told me that there is no end to the different sounds a composer can get out of an orchestra.  He had no patience for those who said that “it’s all been done.”  And Ludwig proved that to be true.  To pick one brand new effect, the violin begins a scale and at the end, the top notes are doubled by a xylophone, making for an other-worldly effect.  Very slick.

The concert started with a symphony.  Now, I’ve always been a casual fan of early 20th-century Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly (say “KOH-dye”) and have, as a music host on local radio station WNED Classical, played his high energy, very tuneful Háry János Suite, his Dances of Marosszék, and his Dances of Galánta.  Which all have an upbeat, ethnic sound.  But, for some reason, until last week’s BPO concert his tranquil Summer Evening Idyll wasn’t top of mind nor was this weekend’s Symphony in C.  It’s a work with many tonal colors and uses the entire orchestra.  To highlight one short passage the trumpets and trombones introduce a phrase that is then echoed by the French Horns, instruments made of brass but included in the woodwind section, making a delicious “echo” effect.  But there are very enjoyable musical “tosses” from one section to another throughout.  And with some loud tympani (there’s actually some loud tympani in all three works on the program) it foreshadowed the final work, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. 

That’s a big rhythmic work with a huge orchestra, full of different instruments.  Not “unusual” instruments, but Rachmaninoff certainly wanted lots of colors.  So, in addition to six (count ‘em) percussionists plus tympani, there’s a bass clarinet, contrabassoon, English Horn, harp, and, not all that common, piano, and, very unusual, alto sax.  Wow.  And for the umpteenth time, I wouldn’t have appreciated what was happening if I hadn’t been there, in a seat, inside Kleinhans.

All the principal players were on stage, and a number of them will be performing around town

Now, all the principal players were on stage, and a number of them will be performing around town, tomorrow, Sunday, May 15, as the musicians of the BPO “moonlight” in events at 3:00, 3:30, and 5:00 pm.  I can’t tell you which concert to go to, because they’re all winners.  I’ve made my choice.  You’ll have to make yours. 

Sunday, May 15 at 3:00 pm a number of BPO musicians re-combine as the Camerata di Sant’Antonio Chamber Orchestra.  With special guests, the Amherst High School Concert Chorale, the Camerata will present the Western NY premieres of Jake Runestad’s “Waves” and Ola Gjielo’s Dark Night of the Soul.  Also on the program is Alexander Borodin’s famous Nocturne, Peter Petrov’s Bulgarian Suite for Violin and String Orchestra, and Richard Heuberger’s gorgeous Nachtmusik (Night Music) at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 1080 Main Street (across from the Anchor Bar) in Buffalo.  Admission $15.00 or by subscription.  Ages 17 and under free.  For details, find them on Facebook as Camerata di Sant’Antonio.

Meanwhile, also on Sunday, May 15 but at 3:30 pm, the BPO musicians who make up the Artemis Quartet, violinists Amy Glidden and Loren Silvertrust, violist Caroline Gilbert and cellist Eve Eva Herer are back!.  Delayed for over two years by the pandemic, they will make their return to the Friends of Vienna concert series at the Unity Church, 1243 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo, to conclude the 43rd Season of the FOV. 

Their program at 3:30pm on Sunday May 15 includes Shostakovich’s rarely performed String Quartet No.3 in F Major, composed in 1946, just after the horrors of WW II ended, as well as the String Quartet No.3 ‘Folk Songs’ by the unjustly neglected Black American composer Florence Price who was the first Black woman to have her music played by a major American orchestra when the Chicago Symphony performed her Symphony in E Minor in 1933. Their intriguingly designed program also includes Mozart’s String Quartet in G major “Spring”.  Adults $14, students $5. Tickets (cash only) will be available at the door. For more information visit

And, finally, Sunday, May 15, at 5:00 pm Shakespeare in Delaware Park presents “PLAY ON! A Nomadic Evening Of Live Music And Theater.”  It’s billed as “a collaborative concert experience where visitors move throughout a series of settings for short performances in beautiful museum spaces. Revel in a roster featuring the Buffalo Chamber Players (moonlighting BPO musicians), Shakespeare in Delaware Park, and the Vocalis Chamber Choir for an evening of strings, class acting, and choral singing.”  

In other words, instead of a “pub crawl” it’s a cultural crawl as PLAY ON! will see the audience split into three groups that will travel throughout the Burchfield Penney Art Center, each enjoying a short performance by one of the three participating arts organizations before moving on to the next location to catch the next performance, and so on.

The Shakespeare crew will be performing scenes from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM with a focus on the Mechanicals and their “play within a play.”  More information on the event, in general, can be found here, or by calling (716) 856-4533.

For the Buffalo Chamber Players’ portion of this cultural crawl, BPO cellist David Schmude and BPO violist Janz Castelo will be playing Caroline Shaw’s Limestone & Felt and J.S. Bach’s Cello/Viola Suite No.1 in G Major, BWV 1007. (716) 856-4533.

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.  Runtime: 1 hour 45 minutes with one intermission (full-service bar across the lobby in the Mary Seaton Room).  But, whatever venue you visit, masks are highly encouraged.  Let’s keep our musicians safe!

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