As we remember 9/11, the Kansas City Symphony is offering up to four free tickets to active duty military, veterans and first responders to attend its Opening Weekend concerts (Sept. 14-16) while supplies last.
The concerts are Friday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. The program, “Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and Symphonic Dances,” features 2013 American Pianists Awards winner and Van Cliburn competition finalist Sean Chen, violinist Noah Geller and Principal Cellist Mark Gibbs on Beethoven’s playful Triple Concerto.
“Our nation and our community owe a tremendous debt to our first responders and their families,” said Symphony Executive Director Frank Byrne. “As we mark the anniversary of 9/11, we offer the gift of music in appreciation of their service and many sacrifices.”
To redeem, please call the Kansas City Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11. The offer is only available through the Symphony Box Office via phone and only available to redeem on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Tickets will be held in Will Call at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts (1601 Broadway) ticket desk. To pick up tickets ordered on the day of concert, please present a valid military ID or departmental ID if a first responder.
For additional questions, please contact the Kansas City Symphony at (816) 471-0400.
THERE’S NOTHING QUITE LIKE THE HAPPY EXPECTATION AND EXCITEMENT OF A new season! Dance dominates our opening weekend (Sept. 14-16). Rachmaninoff’s last major masterpiece, Symphonic Dances, is a piece I’ve come back to many times in my life, always finding something new. It’s not just Rachmaninoff’s signature romanticism, the magnificent melodies or the irresistible rhythmic momentum that captivate me. I love the nostalgic melancholy showing us how homesick he was for his native Russia long after he came to the United States. The concert opener couldn’t be quirkier or more fun than Aaron Jay Kernis’ New Era Dance, an energetic accompaniment to the political and social upheavals of the early 1990s. And for a long overdue treat we’ve not played in more than two decades, three great soloists join us for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto — Noah Geller, back from Seattle for these concerts, Mark Gibbs, celebrating his 20th anniversary as our principal cello, and Sean Chen, an immense talent whose debut here is also overdue.
The dancing continues with Beethoven’s Seventh (Oct. 5-7), which Wagner called “the apotheosis of the dance.” Whether or not Beethoven had that explicitly in mind is beside the point; we readily respond to its lilt. I met the wonderfully inventive composer Michael Kurth when I was conducting the Atlanta Symphony, where he’s a bass player, and I wanted to bring his colorful and evocative A Thousand Words to Kansas City as soon as I discovered it. I’m equally thrilled that the brilliant George Li is returning to perform Grieg’s Piano Concerto with us.
There was something very moving to me pairing Mozart’s exquisite Ave verum corpus (Hail, True Body) with J.S. Bach’s sacred motet “O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht” (O Jesus Christ, My Life’s Light) in our next concerts (Nov. 16-18). Mozart wrote 46 perfect measures essentially as a stream of consciousness, and it’s even more emotional realizing his life ended almost exactly six months later. Bach’s glorious music was meant for a funeral. Together, these deeply human utterances introduce John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls, his profound emotional response to those lost in the tragedy and sacrifice of 9/11. In all three, our Symphony Chorus musicians are the soloists. For me, the extraordinary life affirmation in every bar of Schubert’s monumental last symphony was absolutely fitting to bring our program full circle.
See you at the concerts!
MICHAEL STERN | Music Director, Kansas City Symphony
We’re thrilled you’re joining the Kansas City Symphony and Maestro Johannes Debus for the June 1-3 concerts. Will this be your first time playing with the Kansas City Symphony in Helzberg Hall?
Yes, it will be my first time, even my first time in Kansas, so I’m extremely excited!
Tell us about performing Beethoven’s “Emperor” Piano Concerto. What’s preparation like for you? Since you’re constantly performing in new spaces on different instruments, what types of adjustments do you make upon arrival of a new place?
This adjusting process is one of the big challenges in a pianist’s life. Because it is about a new place, new acoustics and an unknown piano all at once. It’s about getting an intuitive feel for an instrument and a space within a short period of time. Sometimes on a tour, [I have] just a 20 minutes of practice time in the hall. The “Emperor” Concerto, though, is in that context relatively easy, as it works very well on very different types of instruments. Beethoven anyway always dreamt of (and wrote for!) instruments he didn’t have at the time.
When did you know you wanted to be a professional musician? Did you only play piano?
I knew that after about one year of getting piano lessons, when I was 7 or 8. There was nothing more exciting and rewarding right from the start. But there was always so much to work on and to explore, I never seriously thought about learning another instrument. Still, I find the way that a piano works quite mysterious and challenging — actually it can only play softer or louder, you cannot shape a single note, so many things that make singing or a melody instrument fascinating (like the breath, etc.) you have to create “artificially.”
What advice do you give to aspiring pianists?
Follow the route that you find artistically valuable and that you feel drawn to, not what you think people would want to hear, or expect you to play like. Never stop learning and developing your own personal voice in all commitment and dedication to the composer’s intent and the miracle of their works. And do improvise! I regret that I never really did that…
When you’re not practicing or performing, what do you like to do in your leisure time?
Family time, gardening work, sports cars, Theology, soccer.
To purchase tickets to hear Beethoven’s “Emperor” and Wagner’s Ring concerts on June 1-3 in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, please contact the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays or select seats online.
Maestro Debus leads the Kansas City Symphony for the June 1-3 concerts. The program features selections from Wagner’s Ring cycle and Beethoven’s “Emperor” Piano Concerto featuring Martin Helmchen. Tickets from $25. Learn more.
We’re looking forward to the June 1-3 concerts! Tell us about the program. Why did you choose to pair the Beethoven “Emperor” with selections from Wagner’s Ring?
The starting point for the program was the “Emperor” concerto, arguably one of the greatest, most sublime, august, grand, complete and almost supernatural creations in that genre. Somehow I felt a “Ring Without Words” would be a perfect match. Wagner seems to continue with Beethoven’s key signature ideas. In a different way, we encounter in the Ring as well the sublime, august, grand, heroic and supernatural. To Beethoven’s dimension of universality and the absolute, Wagner adds his ideas of transcendence and redemption.
Have you conducted the Kansas City Symphony before? Will this be your first time in Helzberg Hall?
Since I have always heard such amazing things about Helzberg Hall and its “home team,” I’m very much looking forward to making my debut with the Kansas City Symphony in its celebrated concert hall. This will also mark my very first visit to Kansas City. BTW: Congrats on being designated by the UNESCO as a “City of Music.” Speaks for itself!
When did you know you wanted to be a professional musician? Did you always want to be a conductor?
The fascination of being a conductor, the fascination of somehow sculpting and defining the manifold waves of sound an orchestra builds, the idea of bringing all those incredible masterpieces encoded in music scores to life and bringing the various voices in it together — I guess I must have been in my early teens when this seed of a passionate dream started to grow. There was a magnetic force of attraction towards this profession.
What advice do you give to aspiring students?
You live and learn.
After Kansas City, what’s next in your schedule? What are upcoming highlights for you?
Right after Kansas City, I will be at Scotiafest in Halifax celebrating Philip Glass. Then off to the Bregenz Festival where we are going to bring Berthold Goldschmidt’s masterpiece Beatrice Cenci on stage. My personal highlight of this summer, however, will be the launch of a new festival in Prince Edward County end of August.
To purchase tickets to BEETHOVEN’S “EMPEROR” and WAGNER’S RING on June 1-3, 2018 in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, please call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select seats online.
From iconic stars to timeless music, there’s never been a better time to be a season subscriber to the Kansas City Symphony. Subscribe today for access to the best seats at the best prices. The season begins in September and runs through June 2018.
2017-18 CLASSICAL SERIES Fourteen concert weekends: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; or 2 p.m. Sundays. Purchase Bravo Series (7 concerts), Ovation Series (7 concerts) or Masterwork Series (all 14 concerts). Led by Music Director Michael Stern or guest conductors.
Opening Weekend: Rachmaninoff and Capriccio espagnol (Sept. 15-17)
2017-18 SYMPHONY FAMILY SERIES Four concert weekends: 2 p.m. Sundays. Perfect for children ages 4-13. Includes full-length version of the Symphony’s Christmas Festival. Each child subscription is only $10 with the purchase of an adult subscription.
Pianist Wei Luo performs Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto with the Kansas City Symphony on Feb. 17-19 in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The program also includes Hindemith’s jazzy Ragtime, up-and-coming composer David Hertzberg’s for none shall gaze upon the Father and live as well as Beethoven’s jubilant Eighth Symphony. Tickets start at $25. To secure your seats, call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select seats online here.
Tell us about yourself. When did you start playing the piano and when did you know you want to pursue piano performance as a career?
I am a girl from China who just turned 18, and I have played the piano for about 13 years. I started playing piano when I was 5, and not kidding, I wanted to be professional pianist when I first started. Now, I am honored to study with Mr. Graffman and Mr. McDonald at Curtis, and I am also a high school senior.
What can audiences expect to hear when you perform Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto? Do you have a favorite moment or moments? If so, which ones and why?
I basically love the entire concerto, but my favorite part would be the lyrical passages. They are very special among the brilliant and sparkling passages. I would like to audiences to hear the dissonance in the harmonies with the poetic lines, and the excited rhythms and brilliant passages — especially in the fast movements. The contrasts of characters in the music (introverted and extroverted) are very interesting as well.
If you had to pick, who is your favorite composer and why?
Beethoven. The great depths, passions and reasons in his pieces are so challenging. They always require my complete devotion to study and think about how they work together. And there are so many “nutrients” that I get from his works when I delve into them. The more you think about it, the more you get from his music.
This will be your debut with the Kansas City Symphony. Are you excited to perform in Helzberg Hall?
Yes! I am extremely looking forward to playing in the wonderful hall, and the most important of all, it’s like a dream come true for me to work with Maestro Michael Stern! I am so honored and grateful for this wonderful opportunity.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Hmm, when I was 10 years old at Shanghai Conservatory Middle School, during my piano final test, I forgot to pull up my dress’ zipper on the right side (facing the audience)… The judges laughed, and I felt beyond embarrassed … but fortunately, it didn’t affect my grade and I still got 1st!
When you’re not making music or preparing for a concert, what do you like to do in your free time?
I like to stay at home resting, working out, watching shows and baking cakes and pies! Going to museums and concerts are fun too.
Is there anything in particular you want to do or see outside of the concert hall when you’re visiting Kansas City?
I’ve heard that the museums in Kansas City are great, and I should go visit after concerts.
What other upcoming concerts are you looking forward to in the near future?
Among my coming recitals, I very much look forward to giving a solo recital in San Francisco at the Herbst Theatre in early April. In May and July, I’ll play in the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, where I am extremely honored to play with violinist Daniel Hope and clarinetist Todd Levy.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Again, thanks so much for your support, and I will always treasure my experiences in Kansas City! Hope you enjoy the wonderful piece by Prokofiev.
To secure tickets to hear Wei Luo perform this weekend (Feb. 17-19) with the Kansas City Symphony, call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select seats here.
Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot appears as guest conductor of the Kansas City Symphony this weekend, Jan. 20-22 in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The program includes Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring guest pianist George Li, as well as Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony No. 6. Tickets start at $25. To secure your seats, call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select seats online here.
Can you tell us about the program that now includes Beethoven’s “Pastoral”? This is a program of great Romantic nature, from the gorgeous melodies and harmonies of Chopin to Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony, which is all about feelings. Beethoven’s genius is to create in us a journey of emotions as we awake feelings that we associate with situations and landscapes that we have been exposed to in the past. This brings back nostalgic memories, moments of tenderness and smiles, but also dark and fearful thoughts. The Symphony invites us to explore the widest range of emotions within us and to connect them with our own experiences.
Have you conducted the Kansas City Symphony in Helzberg Hall before, or will this be your first time? This is my debut with the Kansas City Symphony, and my first visit to Kansas City.
When did you first start studying music? When did you know you wanted to be a professional musician? Did you always want to become a conductor or did you have plans to become a professional violinist? I started playing violin at age 6 and was quite fond of ensemble playing from an early age. Orchestra, chamber music, new music ensembles. This is what led me to contemplate conducting as I would always study the scores to understand the role I played with the violin part. My love for architecture also made me curious about analyzing musical scores and understanding the form of a piece of music.
I believe the real moment I realized I wanted to be a professional musician came around the age of 12 when I started attending more and more concert and opera performances.
What advice do you give to aspiring music students? Be exposed to as many different mentors and ideas as possible in order to find your own voice. Then, believe in that voice and spread your musical stories with great passion.
After Kansas City, what’s next in your schedule? What are other upcoming highlights for you this season — both guest conducting and with Seattle Symphony? I will fly back to Seattle to perform Ives’ New England Holidays Symphony alongside Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with Emanuel Ax, as well as continuing a recording project of the music of George Perle. Then, I travel to Paris for concerts with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.
There are many highlights coming up: Ravel’s opera L’Enfant et les sortilèges, Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony, Ligeti’s Requiem, as well as concerts in Minnesota, Helsinki and Istanbul.
When you’re not traveling, preparing for upcoming concerts or the like, do you have pastimes you enjoy in your down time? I love playing tennis and boating, and there’s almost always a book in my hands. And of course, spending time with my family.
Anything else you’d like to add? It’s a pleasure and privilege to be sharing music with the Kansas City Symphony this week! I’m very curious to get to know the city.
Guest conductor Ludovic Morlot leads the Kansas City Symphony in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (featuring guest pianist George Li) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral” this weekend, Jan. 20-22. To secure tickets, contact the Symphony Box Office weekdays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at (816) 471-0400 or select seats online here.
George Li performs as soloist alongside the Kansas City Symphony in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (Jan. 20-22). To secure tickets, contact the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or visit kcsymphony.org. Also on the program, led by guest conductor Ludovic Morlot, is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral.”
Tell us about yourself. When did you start playing the piano? When did you know you wanted to be a professional musician?
I have lived all my life in Massachusetts, so I guess I’m a Boston boy through and through! My parents originated from China, so I was raised in a hybrid of sorts from American and Chinese culture. I started playing the piano when I was 4 and a half, and my passion for music was ignited before that, partly because I was exposed to classical music a lot. Neither of my parents play an instrument, but I had grown used to my sister practicing the piano, and in addition, my mom would take us to concerts in Boston, and turn on the classical music radio station before going to bed.
I started wanting to become a professional musician after I played a concert with orchestra, performing Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto. Somehow, I felt differently playing on stage that day, as if I had entered a different world. After the performance, many people came up to me to say how affected they were by my playing. I had no idea music could be so powerful, and from then on, I wanted to continue making music for people.
You’ll be performing Chopin’s First Piano Concerto with the Kansas City Symphony. What do you love about the work?
The piece is indeed very dear to me, as I’m sure it is for everyone else as well! There is of course the element of the many beautiful arching and singing melodies, but for me, I love the piece especially because of its depth. It shows that Chopin is much more than a composer who creates beautifully sweet and soothing melodies; granted, he does this with ease, but there is also the passionate, stormy and tragic side to him. There is so much nuance and finesse to his music, and hopefully I’ll be able to show that this weekend!
Beyond Chopin, who are your other favorite composers and why?
This is a tough question for me, because I try to form a solid relationship with every composer that I play and every piece that I’m working on. Very often, I learn to love the piece and the composer that I play, but I feel a stronger bond with composers like Beethoven, Schumann and Rachmaninoff — all geniuses in their own right.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to read, and am a sports fanatic! The first sport I felt passionate about was — and still is — baseball, and now my interest in sports has grown to soccer, football and basketball as well. I only play soccer nowadays, and just in small groups to avoid any injuries.
What are other highlights of your 2016-17 season?
I played with Maestro Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic at the opening gala, and also made my orchestral debut in the Berlin Philharmonie, both of which were really exciting. Coming up, I will make my debuts with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra.
Where are you headed next after Kansas City?
I will go to Barcelona next to play Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Maestro Gergiev.
To hear George Li perform Chopin’s First Piano Concerto with the Kansas City Symphony on the Jan. 20-22 concerts, select seats online or call the Symphony Box Office between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at (816) 471-0400.
Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot to replace guest conductor Asher Fisch and the Symphony will perform Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony in place of Brahms and Wagner
Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot will step in for guest conductor Asher Fisch for the Kansas City Symphony’s upcoming Classical Series concerts on Jan. 20-22. Additionally, the new program is:
CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring pianist George Li BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral”
Morlot has served as music mirector at the Seattle Symphony since 2011, and he is a frequent guest conductor as top orchestras around the world. Trained as a violinist, Morlot studied conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in London and then at the Royal College of Music as recipient of the Norman del Mar Conducting Fellowship. He chairs the orchestra conducting studies at the University of Washington School of Music in Seattle.
Tickets for “Chopin with Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’” start at $25 and are available from kcsymphony.org or by calling the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400.
The Kansas City Symphony presents “Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn” featuring guest conductor Bernard Labadie and guest pianist Robert Levin on Nov. 25-27 in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The program includes two Mozart overtures from Don Giovanni and La clemenza di Tito, as well as Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto and Haydn’s Symphony No. 98. Tickets from $25. Call the Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select your seat here.
Tell us about the program for the Nov. 18-20 Kansas City Symphony concerts. The program explores both the dark and bright sides of the late Classical/early Romantic repertoire. The overture to Don Giovanni opens with the vivid description of hell, which later returns to haunt the main character at the end of the opera. Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto is a profound and compelling reflection on the conflicting emotions of human life, from the stark and menacing beginning to the deep and poignant lyricism of the slow movement. In contrast, the overture to La Clemenza di Tito and Haydn’s Symphony No. 98 celebrate life with radiant — and even witty — jubilation.
These concerts fall immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday, which is centered around food and family gatherings — and we think music should be part of that set too. What are you thankful for this year? The answer is easy: I’m just thankful for being alive. Two and a half years ago I was diagnosed with a severe form of lymphoma, which brought me through a very long journey of suffering, anxiety, sadness, resilience and slow rebirth. Only this fall have I resumed my conducting career at full speed. Making music has never been so joyful and so meaningful. Life is a great and beautiful thing, and one should never take it for granted.
Since you’re returning to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts to once again lead the Kansas City Symphony, how do you describe the auditory experience of performing in Helzberg Hall? How does it compare to other halls, in your opinion? There is no doubt in my mind that Helzberg Hall has world-class acoustics comparable to the best concert venues both in North America and Europe. The listener feels very close to the music and the musicians, and everyone is engulfed in a wonderful and sensuous sonic experience. The sound is at the same time very warm, extremely detailed and clear.
Tell us about pianist Robert Levin. How long have you two known each other? What special qualities does he bring to the stage as a performer? I have known Robert for 25 years, first as a conducting student while he was performing at the Bachakademie in Stuttgart in 1991. We have performed numerous times together ever since, and I view every single encounter with him as a fabulous privilege. Robert is much more than just a great pianist, musician or musicologist (he is all three at the same time). He is one of those extremely rare individuals whose understanding of music allows them to absorb and recreate the complexity and richness of the great geniuses’ music to their full extent. His capacity to improvise ornaments and cadenzas live on stage in late Classical repertoire, like Mozart and Beethoven concertos, is second to none. He is a leading authority on performance practice, and his work on Mozart’s unfinished works is simply remarkable. The only version of Mozart’s Requiem I ever conduct nowadays is the brilliant completion he published in the early ‘90s. Robert is truly one of the greatest treasures of American music, and it is a privilege to be able to call him a friend.
What advice do you give to aspiring music students? Believe in you, work hard, stay humble in the face of music and colleagues, and yet pursue your goals with determination and passion. Music is an amazing gift and must always be treated with utmost respect.
What are other upcoming highlights for you this season? This season is really full of exciting challenges for me. Among others, I will return to the New York and the Los Angeles philharmonics, the St. Louis Symphony and the Bavarian State Radio Orchestra in Munich. I also will have my debut with the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto (with one of my favorite operas: Mozart’s Magic Flute) next January, as well as first appearances in Oslo and Vienna (at long last!). And, of course, I have more projects with the two groups I founded in Quebec City, the Les Violons du Roy and La Chapelle de Québec.
When you’re not traveling, preparing for upcoming concerts or the like, do you have pastimes you enjoy in your down time? I used to walk a lot before my illness, and I can’t wait to have entirely rebuilt my muscular strength so that I can go back to it regularly. My girlfriend has introduced me to fishing last summer and I loved it! When I travel, I always try to save some time for discovering the many wonderful places I’m privileged to visit… especially if there is a vineyard in the neighborhood!
Anything else you’d like to add? Returning to the Kansas City Symphony is one of the joys of my year. The orchestra is fabulous, the management and whole organization are world-class, and the audience always vibrant and knowledgeable. Can’t hope for more!
Secure your seats to “Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn” by calling the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or selecting seats online here. Tickets start at $25.