Buffalo Philharmonic sparkles in Sarasota concert

JoAnn Falletta
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

From only the first phrases of Alexander Borodin’s Overture to the opera “Prince Igor,” the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra presented an impressive mix of buoyantly vibrating strings, precise woodwinds, and steely brass Wednesday night at the Van Wezel in a program presented by the Sarasota Concert Association. Conductor JoAnn Falletta, an inspiration for many throughout her groundbreaking career, exerted clear control and finesse guiding this considerably talented orchestra.

“Prince Igor,” Borodin’s most acclaimed opera, is more often represented by the vivid Polovtsian Dances popularized in the 1953 musical “Kismet.” There is no “Stranger in Paradise” in the overture, but the expressive range and color, provided by Alexander Glazunov after the composer’s death, is equally remarkable.

The Russian Borodin was accompanied on this program by fellow countryman Sergei Prokofiev, yet a splendid performance of Johannes Brahms’ Concerto No. 2 in B-flat, Op. 83 stood in the center.

Pianist Fabio Bidini is regarded as a master teacher, chamber musician, and among the best concert pianists of his generation. This mature Brahms concerto requires more than technical virtuosity as it leans heavily on thoughtful artistic judgment and the ability to blend in partnership with orchestra soloists. Falletta and Bidini worked as one and the entire orchestra right in there as well for maximum effect.

The Concerto No. 2 was composed and premiered well after Brahms had made a name for himself as a notable composer of both chamber works and symphonies, despite the shadow of the mighty Beethoven in both genres. This concerto is a confident step to bring together the best of both these worlds as the orchestra was challenged with musical material worthy of any symphony.
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