Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, just across the Peace Bridge, is dated but has what JoAnn Falletta, their conductor, calls "Scandinavian simplicity," and the acoustics remain terrific, a great venue to appreciate classical music.
The Music Hall (3 Symphony Circle) is easy to get to. Once across the Peace Bridge, turn left on Porter Ave., and simply follow Porter just past D'Youville College. (5 minutes) There is a large parking lot on site, but we parked for free on a side street.
With energetic JoAnn Falletta conducting, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra was in good form on a brisk October Sunday afternoon performing Part 2 of its Rachmaninoff Festival. The ominous “The Isle Of the Dead” opened the concert, based upon a gloomy painting by Swiss artist Arnold Bocklin of a boat carrying a coffin to an island. Beautiful and melancholy at the same time, an unhurried lament that gathered steam and led to Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op 1, with soloist, Gabriela Martinez from Caracas, Venezuela, exhibiting long, graceful arms - reminding me of Swan Lake as she dazzled us on the keyboards. A Julliard grad, she has performed as soloist and chamber musician in more than 50 concert halls throughout the world. Watching her at the piano and the first violin at her side, both tall, blonde and pony-tailed - was a thrill as they demonstrated artistry with fervor and flair.
The second part of the program featured “The Bells,” a choral symphony inspired by the poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The stage was quite crowded with the full orchestra along with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, clad black and three vocal soloists who weighed in - Rebecca Nash, soprano, Charles Reid, tenor, and Darren Stokes, bass, all strong vocalists, but their voices often muffled by the huge chorus, the lyrics sometimes hard to decipher, not as crisp as one would like.
There was a touching bass quartet tribute to the late BPO bass player William Burns - “Ten Thousand Sorrows” by the Renaissance composer Josquin des Prez.
Kleinhans Music Hall was built in the late 1930s and opened October 1940. The music hall was built as a part of the last will and testament of Edward L. and Mary Seaton Kleinhans, owners of the Kleinhans men's clothing store. It was designed by the famous Finnish father-and-son team of Eliel and Eero Saarinen, along with architects F.J. and W.A Kidd. Kleinhans is known for its combination of graceful structural beauty and extraordinary acoustics. The design of Kleinhans Music Hall resembles the body of a string instrument, as does the main auditorium. There are three notable rooms within Kleinhans: the Main Auditorium, Livingston Hall (named in memory of Mary Livingston, mother of Mr. Kleinhans), and the Mary Seaton Room (a memorial to Mr. Kleinhans’ wife, Mary Seaton Kleinhans).
Kleinhans Music Hall is designated as a National Historic Landmark with an international reputation as one of the finest concert halls. Orchestra musicians, conductors, and soloists have long admired Kleinhans, including Jascha Heifetz (“It’s a joy to play in this hall”); Artur Rubenstein (“Any artist gives his best in a hall such as this”); and Serge Koussevitzsky (“Kleinhans Music Hall is a dream of a lifetime – perfect and complete.”) Kleinhans is considered one of the most acoustically perfect halls in the world, and that perfection has not diminished through the years.
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