JoAnn Falletta began her twentieth season as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic with Rossini’s Overture to Semiramide. The quartet of horns sublimely performed their role and the virtuosity of the woodwinds was displayed, teasing with melodies from the opera. Rossini’s characteristic crescendos were executed masterfully.
The oft-unsung Buffalo strings showed gentle restraint in providing opening chords as Tianwa Yang revealed her prowess in Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in which Paganini-like pyrotechnics and sheer emotion were on display.
Following which Liszt’s Totentanz was unfolded with intensity and dramatic energy, magnificently executed by William Wolfram with lightning-speed precision, he and the BPO consistently adapting to the changing tempos. Ranging from the clarinet solo to the crisp brass, the variety found in Liszt’s orchestration was handled confidently to confuse and even dare death itself, despite its inevitable arrival.
The deep cellos captured the Slavic spirit of Dvořák 8 from the very opening and, following the well-played pastoral-like flute melody, the other strings joined in the fun at Falletta’s rousing tempo. In the Adagio the woodwinds complemented the strings very well, with clarinets subtly asserting themselves for emotionally charged tranquility, following which the violins were exquisite during the waltz movement that follows. The trumpet fanfare cueing the Finale was brilliant. The cellos returned to prominence while the horns and timpani brought distinction to their enhancing roles during this song and dance movement, rapid and reflective, ending with a fiery-fast coda.