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New Classical Tracks: JoAnn Falletta celebrates 20 years at Buffalo Philharmonic with new recording of Brahms and Prokofiev

JoAnn Falletta Courtesy of the artist
4min 59sec : New Classical Tracks: JoAnn Falletta
29min 36sec : New Classical Tracks: JoAnn Falletta (extended)

JoAnn Falletta, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra — Buffalo Philharmonic Live in Concert: Brahms & Prokofiev (Beau Fleuve Records)

"Buffalo is a city that suffers from a little bit of self-esteem problems, because people always laugh about our weather," JoAnn Falletta says. "Now I'm going on-record as saying Buffalo actually does not have bad weather; it is actually, most of the time, really beautiful."

Falletta is marking her 20th year as the music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. If you're wondering what keeps her in Buffalo, N.Y., she says the city and its people are wonderful. And, of course, they have an incredible orchestra that has a pedigree of impeccable music directors like William Steinberg, Michael Tilson Thomas and JoAnn Falletta.

"I think that Buffalo's come a long way in the 20 years that we've been together, and the orchestra has changed a lot. A lot of retirements have happened over those years, and a lot of very young people have come into the orchestra. So, it's been exciting for me to help build that and to take what was a very beloved orchestra in its city and give it a little bit more of a national and international presence through our recordings, because that strengthened us enormously as an orchestra."

Their latest recording appears on their own label, and it features JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra live in concert.

There are two major works on this recording. How did you pair these works together on this program?

"Well, the Brahms Concerto No. 2 was a specific request by my dear friend Fabio Bidini.

"Brahms 2, for me, is one of the most profound pieces ever written. In it, you can hear his love for Clara Schumann in the slow movement. He uses a song that he wrote for her. I'm paraphrasing this, but the words are something so tender. He said, 'In dreams I hear you calling for me outside my door. But I cannot get up and open it. I wake and weep bitterly.'

"When I told the musicians in the Buffalo Philharmonic that poem, there was quiet for a minute, and then a violist said to me: 'How can we play now?' After thinking of Brahms and that love of Clara Schumann — that's the beautiful cello solo you hear in the Andante. It is one of the greatest moments of that piece."

The other piece on this recording is Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, selections from the three suites that he extracted from the original ballet, and then you have extracted what you felt might make the best suite from those. How did you do that? What was your criteria as you were putting together your choices from those three suites?

"Well, everyone has their favorites, and some of them everyone agrees upon. You have to have the 'Death of Tybalt', for instance, and 'Montagues and Capulets'. But I wanted to put together a collection. I think there are nine movements that kind of follow the storyline so that someone who knew the story of Romeo and Juliet could go through those shifts in mood and could live through the story."

JoAnn Falletta has dreamed of being a conductor since she was 10 years old, and she's never looked back.

"I said to my parents, 'I want to do that.' And they said, 'Well, we don't really know what that person does.' Nor did I. It started very early, and I've never looked back. I feel like I'm living my dream now, and I'm very happy about that."

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

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JoAnn Falletta, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra — Buffalo Philharmonic Live in Concert: Brahms & Prokofiev (Amazon)

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