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Sounds of Amerıca

Gramophone’s guide to the classical scene in the US and Canada

Focus Buffalo at 75 – page I » The Scene Musical highlights from across North America – page IV »

Reviews The latest CD and DVD releases – page IX

Joann Falletta: Strong artistic leadership

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G o r s k

C h e r y l

:p h o T o g R a p h y

Scoring theBuffalo’s charge O

The Buffalo Philharmonic has achieved much in 75

years but, as music director JoAnn Falletta tells Vivien Schweitzer, many challenges lie ahead

“ne hundred years ago Buffalo had the largest number of millionaires per capita. It was a powerful city and has fallen in recent years. We want to be part of its renaissance,” explains JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The fact that the orchestra is flourishing during this, its 75th anniversary season, is reason enough to celebrate, especially given the current economic climate. Falletta, who took up the helm in 1999, has set a strong example of artistic and financial leadership for an orchestra that has seen its fair share of strikes and fiscal woes. During her busy tenure thus far the orchestra has returned to recording; its Naxos disc of John Corigliano’s Mr Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan won two Grammy Awards in 2009. Several other recordings have received Grammy nominations.

Last year the orchestra embarked on its first tour in 20 years and established a solid financial footing; a five-year campaign concluding in 2008 raised more than $32 million for the endowment. The BPO posted a balanced budget in the 2009-10 season. To celebrate the anniversary, the orchestra has released a five-disc set of music from the BPO vaults showcasing Falletta and previous music directors including William Steinberg, Josef Krips, Lukas Foss, Michael Tilson Thomas, Julius Rudel, Semyon Bychkov and Maximiano Valdés. They conduct varied repertoire and soloists including Emanuel Ax and Glenn Gould.

Falletta, who also celebrates her 20th anniversary as music director of the Virginia Symphony this season, describes following in the footsteps of this impressive roster as “really daunting”. Steinberg, the music director from 1945 to 1952, “created a European orchestra in Buffalo”, fostering, says Falletta, “a European sound with a gravity, warmth and weight to it and a golden quality to the strings”. That sound, she adds, was greatly enhanced by the 2839-seat, 70-year-old Kleinhans Music Hall, which she characterises as “an amazing acoustical instrument”.

Falletta says that when the BPO was conducted by Lukas Foss and Michael Tilson Thomas, it acquired “a lot of American muscle and an American way of thinking about music”, while retaining a European aesthetic.

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