Community Spotlight: Buffalo Chamber Music Society
A Q&A with Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s Clementina Flesher, celebrating the society’s 100th anniversary season.
Since its opening concert on March 12, 1924, the Buffalo Chamber Music Society has presented over 575 concerts, treating near-capacity audiences to world-renowned artists, pioneering compositions, and virtuosic playing. This season is no different, and as Buffalo Chamber Music Society kicks off its 100th anniversary year on October 3, we spoke to longtime Executive Director Clementina Flesher about the storied institution’s past, present, and future.
This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
CMA: What are some highlights of your 100th anniversary season?
CF: Our opening night concert on October 3 featured a string quartet that we commissioned by Jennifer Higdon and performed by the Aizuri Quartet, the most recent winners of CMA’s Cleveland Quartet Award. Later in the series, we’re presenting concerts by the Juilliard, Danish, Takács, and Doric quartets. The Manhattan Chamber Players will play Schubert’s crowd-favorite “Trout Quintet,” and the Frautschi, Nakamatsu, Manasee trio will perform works by Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Ysaye, and Chopin.
CMA: How has the programming of Buffalo Chamber Music Society changed over the years?
CF: I don’t think it has, really. We continue to present world-renowned artists performing staples of the chamber music repertoire and encourage the performance of new works.
CMA: What are some challenges of operating as a presenter?
CF: Challenges of course include increased artists fees and hall rental fees. I am thankful for our loyal group of contributors that help us navigate these increased prices. We are the only chamber music presenter in Buffalo, and our proven track record has led to near-capacity audiences.
CMA: Buffalo Chamber Music Society has survived a number of national emergencies and economic downturns throughout its history. How did Buffalo Chamber Music Society navigate the COVID-19 pandemic?
CF: Due to the pandemic, we had to shorten the 2019-20 season, cancelling our final two concerts. The 2020-21 season was completely cancelled. Still, we found a way to engage our audience in that time. We offered our subscribers free, monthly chamber music concerts that we purchased from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. These concerts were available to stream for one week each month. Many subscribers sent e-mails thanking us for the concerts.
CMA: What does the next 100 years look like at Buffalo Chamber Music Society
CF: We will continue to provide the best chamber music to Western New York audiences.
It has been interesting during my tenure to see all the new young quartets and ensembles that have emerged. When I started in 1983, there were only a handful of ensembles we programmed, including the Budapest, Juilliard, Emerson, Guarneri, and Cleveland quartets. Today the field has opened; there are so many excellent ensembles, and making choices for our series has become increasingly difficult. It’s an exciting time to be part of the industry.