Thursday, August 7, 2014

Alpha-Buffalo: B is for Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, a Buffalo staple since 1935, is a nationally- and internationally-renowned orchestra that calls Kleinhans Music Hall home. The BPO, under the direction of Maestro JoAnne Falletta, presents over 100 shows each year, and in 2009, won their first two Grammy Awards.

The BPO's history dates back to 1934, when Cameron Baird, Frederick Slee, and Samuel Capan recruited Lajos Shuk, a European-trained conductor who was then cello virtuoso and director of the New York Civic Symphony, to lead a Buffalo-based orchestra. The first concerts were presented in the 1935-36 season, and efforts were put forth by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Society to raised funds to maintain the orchestra through 1937, at which time support came from a WPA project.

Kleinhans Music Hall, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, has been the home of the BPO since 1940. The internationally-known concert hall was built thanks to a donation from the estates of Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans, and designed by the father-son team of Eliel and Eero Saarinen. The first BPO concert at the hall was the dedication concert on October 12th, 1940.

In 1945, Maestro Williams Steinberg presided over a new era for the orchestra, with the addition of many European musicians seeking a new life in the US. Under Steinberg, the BPO released its first commercial recording, Leningrad Symphony No. 7 by Shostakovich; several of their performances were also recorded and broadcast on the NBC radio network.

Following Steinberg's departure in 1952, Maestro Josef Krips, former Music Director for both the Vienna State Opera and the London Symphony, took over the podium, followed by Lukas Foss in 1963. Both maestros took the orchestra to new levels, with Krips bringing back BPO tours of the eastern US and Canada, and Foss bringing the group to Carnegie Hall and PBS.

Foss' successor, Michael Tilson Thomas, took over in 1971. The young maestro, just 24 when he accepted the position, led the BPO through two recordings and performances at Carnegie Hall, Boston's Symphony Hall, and Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center. In 1979 Julius Rudel, maestro for the New York City Opera, took the podium over, followed by Russian maestro Semyon Bychkov, who led the BPO on their first-ever European tour.

Maestro Maximiano Valdes of Chili took over the podium in 1989, followed by current Music Director Falletta in 1998. Falletta, who holds an undergraduate degree from New York's Mannes School of Music and master's and doctorate degrees from The Juilliard School, was the first female music director named to a major orchestra in the US. Falletta has brought the BPO to an even higher level of excellence, which has included over a dozen recordings and the orchestra's first two Grammy Awards, for the 2008 recording John Corigliano: Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan; Three Hallucinations. She has a reputation for featuring seldom-heard works and has guest conducted for many other symphonies around the world. Falletta is also Music Director for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and founded the JoAnne Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, which takes place in Buffalo.

Learn more about the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, including their upcoming scheduled performances, at

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