The Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra opens the season at the Phelps Mansion Museum


The BPO held a recital featuring pieces that included a sonata in remembrance of the September 11 attacks.

On Sunday, the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) held a preview recital at the Phelps Mansion Museum.

The program included violinist Uli Speth, principal violinist of BPO, and pianist Tomoko Kanamaru, principal pianist of BPO. The recital included music that spanned various musical periods. The program started with Ludwig van Beethoven and ended with George Gershwin.

The Season Preview Recital was sponsored by Garufi Law PC and functioned as a way for BPO to preview the composers who would be featured in the 2022-23 season. The recital was also a fundraiser for BPO. The purchase of recital tickets, along with basket raffle tickets, raised over $5,000 in support of BPO.

Beethoven’s first piano sonatas, “Sonata in E flat major, Opus 12, No. 3”, began the recital program. This sonata showed elements of the gallant style, typical of the music of the classical era. The influence of Mozart on the composer manifests itself in this first period of Beethoven’s life. The I. Allegro con spirito”, “II. Adagio con molta espressione” and “III. Rondo: Allegro molto” were heard and showed the style of the classical period — the music was simplistic, elegant and relaxing.

The second sonata of the program, “Sonata n° 2, op. 63 “9/11” (2001), was inserted to commemorate the victims of 9/11. Paul Cienniwa, executive director of BPO, who has a doctorate in music, took a moment to acknowledge the tragedy.

“On this anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, let us observe a moment of silence for those who lost their lives,” Cienniwa said.

This sonata began with a lot of dissonance, intensity and very contrasting sonorities. The music mirrored the attacks by incorporating rapid, dynamic changes from piano to forte. The instrumentalists made rapid volume changes that surprised the audience. These sudden changes in the music were meant to reflect the terror that accompanied the September 11 attacks. Audience members felt like they didn’t know what was coming next.

After “L’Alouette (The Lark)” by Mikhail Glinka, transcribed by Leopold von Auer, there was an intermission where spectators could buy raffle tickets. After the intermission, works by Edvard Grieg and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky were performed. The program ended with well-known works by Dmitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein and Gershwin.

As Speth and Kanamaru played Shostakovich’s “The Second Waltz,” the audience swayed and hummed along to the well-known tune. The waltz was transcribed for piano and violin by Diego Marani and was an excellent segway to the popular song “Somewhere” from Bernstein’s West Side Story. The last piece included arias from Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess” transcribed by Jascha Heifetz.

Speth described the recital programming process. Specifically, he mentioned the research involved in creating a smooth program.

“So the programming really started in the early summer,” Speth said. “We thought about what elements would be in it and how to tie that into the season.”

Speth said during his research he came across Bernstein’s “Somewhere” – arranged by Raimundo Penaforte – for piano and violin. He had the option of listening to a recording and buying the music. Speth said Bernstein’s transcription was the most recent, as works often have dated transcriptions.

“The most recent was the Bernstein,” Speth said. “It was actually a gentleman I know who arranged it… So it was done maybe 10 years ago. Others are much older.

Speth said he was first welcomed to Binghamton in 2005. He noted that there was an appreciation for artistry within the Binghamton community. Speth spoke about his experience as BPO’s concertmaster.

“There’s a sense of community here and people appreciate good art, so I’ve always felt welcome here,” Speth said.

The fundraising event ended with a basket raffle, where several gift baskets were donated by local organizations, clubs, businesses and restaurants, including Tom’s Coffee Cards & Gifts and Kampai Japanese Steakhouse. After the announcement of the raffle winners, there was a reception with different types of cakes.

Audience members had the opportunity to interact with musicians at the reception while indulging in treats. Cienniwa said the event offered audience members the opportunity to experience music on a smaller scale and in a more intimate setting.

“It’s not just a way for people to be together on a smaller scale, but [it’s] the opportunities to interact with the musicians are also greater,” Cienniwa said. “The natural intimacy of chamber music provides a very different experience than a large concert hall.”

Cienniwa said that in a post-COVID-19 world, people yearn to come together as a community. He said organizations are always nervous about hosting events, but described the positive results BPO has had in hosting a more intimate music event.

“We sold out,” Cienniwa said. “It’s amazing, I mean really and what a way to start our season. It’s more than music. It’s more than fundraising. It’s also a communion of people coming together and share an experience.


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