Kansas City Symphony 2017-18 Star-Studded Season features Yo-Yo Ma, Joyce DiDonato, many more

Kansas City Symphony 2017-18 SeasonFrom iconic stars to timeless music, there’s never been a better time to be a season subscriber to the Kansas City Symphony. Subscribe by July 15 for access to the best seats at the best prices. The season begins in September and runs through June 2018.

Kansas City Symphony Classical Series2017-18 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. 

2017-18 SYMPHONY POP SERIES
Four concert weekends: 8 p.m. Fridays or Saturdays. Led by David T. Beals III Associate Conductor Jason Seber. 

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. 

SPECIAL CONCERTS
Subscribers have the option to add on these holiday and specials concerts when purchasing a 2017-18 subscriptions. *Single tickets to some concerts on sale now. 

  • Screenland at the Symphony: Star Trek Into Darkness Live (Sept. 8 and 10)*
  • Brian Stokes Mitchell with the Kansas City Symphony (Oct. 7)*
  • Screenland at the Symphony: Nosferatu (Oct. 31)*
  • Queen’s Greatest Hits with the Kansas City Symphony (Nov. 18)*
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets™ in Concert (Feb. 15-18, 2018)
  • The Music of Prince with the Kansas City Symphony (March 10, 2018)
  • Audra McDonald with the Kansas City Symphony (May 5, 2018)

*Indicates single tickets on sale now. 

HOLIDAY CONCERTS

  • Canadian Brass: Christmastime is Here! (Dec. 1)
  • Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 8-10)
  • Christmas Festival (Dec. 15-19)
  • Disney in Concert: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (Dec. 22-23) 

The Symphony will announce other 2017-18 concerts and events, such as Classics Uncorked Series and the FREE Happy Hour Series concerts in July. 

Single tickets on sale Monday, July 24 at 10 a.m. 

To learn more about becoming a Kansas City Symphony subscriber or to purchase single tickets to select concerts now, visit kcsymphony.org or call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400.

From the Desk of Michael Stern

DEAR FRIENDS,

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HELZBERG HALL, AND LITERALLY DECADES
of absence from the Kansas City Symphony’s programs, we present a towering 20th-century magnum opus (May 5-7). It is an understatement to categorize Britten’s searing masterpiece, War Requiem, as large-scale. Despite two discrete orchestras, a large chorus, a separate children’s chorus and three powerful soloists, for me, the overwhelming impact of this magnificent music comes from much more than its sheer size. Nine powerfully beautiful poems by Wilfred Owens, an English poet and soldier who perished just days before the armistice ending World War I, are interspersed with the traditional liturgical Latin text of the Requiem Mass.

Britten was commissioned to write this work to rededicate Coventry Cathedral, destroyed during World War II, but this work speaks to us on many levels. A lifelong pacifist, Britten reacted personally to the bloodshed of his times with a prayer for peace that is an indictment of war and violence itself, making the Requiem into a statement for all humanity. On the score’s first page, Britten quotes Owens: “The Poetry is in the pity… /All a poet can do today is warn.” Now, more than ever, this music is essential. With our brilliant soloists Christine Brewer, Anthony Dean Griffey and Stephen Powell, I am thrilled that we can share this music together.

Then too soon, our season ends in June with two outstanding concerts. Returning to play two Mozart piano concerti is my longtime friend and great artist Emanuel Ax (June 2-4). The merriment of Manny’s insights into Mozart create a perfect foil to Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel.

Rachmaninoff’s luxurious Second Symphony closes our finale concerts (June 16-18) where we also welcome two wonderful artists. Dynamic violinist Philippe Quint returns to our stage with Barber’s glorious Violin Concerto. Narong Prangcharoen, a brilliantly gifted young composer with University of Missouri-Kansas City roots, opens the program with his colorful and driving Phenomenon. It is an honor to bring this music to Kansas City. Music is alive and well here, and we are grateful to you all for this season — and for the future.


MICHAEL STERN | Music Director, Kansas City Symphony


To secure seats, visit kcsymphony.org or call (816) 471-0400.

GUEST VIDEOS: Soprano Christine Brewer & Tenor Anthony Dean Griffey

Britten's War Requiem

Join us for a moving and powerful concert event like no other. An extraordinary statement of peace that still resonates today, Britten’s War Requiem is a towering 20th century masterpiece. The Kansas City Symphony, Symphony Chorus, and special guests will perform this epic work on May 5-7 in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Hear from a couple of our special guests:

Guest Soprano Christine Brewer:

Guest tenor Anthony Dean Griffey:

To secure your seats, call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, or select seats at kcsymphony.org.

Why Subscribe? 5 Great Reasons to Subscribe to the Kansas City Symphony

Becoming a Kansas City Symphony season subscriber has lots of perks.

VIEW THE 2017-18 season brochure HERE.

No. 1 – Amazing music and special moments.
In today’s hectic world, treat yourself to top-notch music that not only will relax and renew you, but truly inspire you. You will look forward to having time blocked off in your busy schedule where you can unplug for a bit and be in the moment. The Kansas City Symphony is consistently artistically excellent, so you know you’re always in for a memorable experience. Make it a fun outing with friends or impress your significant other with several dates already planned for the next year!

No. 2 – Greats Seats at Great Prices.
Becoming a Kansas City Symphony season subscriber is the surest way to secure the best seats available at the lowest prices the Symphony offers all season. It’s a terrific value too. Each season subscription includes the equivalent of at least 1 free concert. For example, those who choose the 7-concert Bravo or Ovation Series get 7 Classical Series concerts for the price of 6. And for the ardent classical music fan, the 14-concert Masterworks option is an amazing deal as concertgoers can secure seats to all 14 Classical Series concerts for the price of 11. Pops and Family Series subscribers experience similar benefits — four concerts for the price of three. Said another way, season subscribers save up to $20 off each seat for each concert. Becoming a season subscriber is the only way to guarantee such hot deals.

No. 3 – Free and Flexible Exchanges.
Conflict with a concert? Out-of-town wedding to attend? Trip planned? No worries, the Kansas City Symphony has got you covered with one of the most liberal and flexible exchange policies in town. All Symphony subscribers have the option of free exchanges, which means subscribers are able to exchange into virtually any Symphony concert – even into concerts not in their series. So, if you can’t attend, say opening weekend, you could switch into a Pops Series concert or a Screenland at the Symphony concert. Pretty sweet.

No. 4 – Additional Discounts.
Want to bring more friends with you? Want to add on a special concert? All season subscribers receive $5 off each ticket purchased outside of their subscription. Told you there were perks!

No. 5 – Exclusive Opportunities.
The Kansas City Symphony offers its season subscribers the chance to buy single tickets and special concerts before they go on-sale to the public. You’ll also have a chance to receive all of the latest news and announcements from the Symphony when you become a subscriber.

To learn more about all of the Classical, Pops and Family Series offerings, visit the Symphony season subscription page or call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or browse online at kcsymphony.org.

Get to Know Guest Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers

Anne Akiko Meyers. Photo credit: ​Nico Nordström

Guest violinist Anne Akiko Meyers will perform the Ravel’s Tzigane and the late Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Fantasia (world premiere) on March 24-26 with the Kansas City Symphony. The program also includes Sibelius’ Second and Nielsen’s Overture to Maskarade. Tickets from $25. Call (816) 471-0400 or select seats online.

Tell us about two works — the Ravel and Rautavaara — you will be playing with the Symphony this month.

I have been a lifelong fan of Einojuhani Rautavaara’s and asked him to write Fantasia in 2015. He leapt at the opportunity to write what turned out to be his last composition for violin and orchestra and later that year, sent me the beautifully haunting work. He invited me to perform Fantasia at his studio in Helsinki in December 2015. It was a profoundly moving experience with the composer sitting his living room, which overlooks the Finnish harbor. After I performed, he commented that he wanted no edits or revisions and he was super pleased with the beautiful composition he composed! I couldn’t agree more. Sadly, Rautavaara passed away last year. I am honored to premiere it with Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony.

Ravel’s Tzigane is a gypsy virtuoso showpiece, and it is a perfect complement to the Fantasia. The Tzigane begins with a monster cadenza that challenges every violinist. The piece is a huge crowd pleaser.

Are you looking forward to performing in Helzberg Hall with Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony? This will be your debut with the Kansas City Symphony, correct?

I met with Michael Stern’s father, the legendary violinist, Isaac Stern, to test out violins at Carnegie Hall and met with him on tour in Japan. I am really looking forward to collaborating with Michael, hearing and premiering this beautiful new work together in Kansas City!

While this is the world premiere of Rautavaara’s Fantasia, you have recorded the work already. What was that experience like? Is it your most recent recording project?

I recorded the work with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Kristjan Järvi. I found the experience incredibly moving and believe the Rautavaara will be considered one of this composer’s masterpieces.

What advice do you give aspiring musicians?

Get out and play as much as you can! Create performance opportunities by performing in hospitals, churches, synagogues, retirement homes, etc. Sharing and communicating to audiences through your music is what it is all about. 

What are your sources of motivation and inspiration?

Everything around me. Family, life, food, music, nature, paintings, history.

We’ve noticed you have some unique publicity photos of you and your violin among huge trees. Did you have to hike prior to this photo shoot? How did you decide on that particular setting?

That was a very wet, rainy day outside of Austin, Texas, and the photographer raved about the area. There was a giant tree that looked like a heart was part of it. I had to be extra careful not to fall with the slick conditions and wait for dry patches of sky to take the violin out. 

Photo credit: MOLINA VISUALS

Do you have any pre-concert rituals before you step out on to the stage?

I like to rest in the afternoon after working out and gorging myself on a big carb lunch. A Skype chat with my family, nutrition bars and bananas help me immensely before hitting the stage.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Free time? I have a 4- and 6-year-old at home.

What are upcoming highlights of your remaining 2016-17 season? Do you have summer festival commitments or other concerts?

I will be headlining a Beethoven festival in Japan, performing the Bernstein Serenade in Nashville and performing recitals in New York and Washington D.C., among other performances.

This summer, I will be premiering the Samuel Jones violin concerto at the Eastern Music Festival in South Carolina, performing the Mendelssohn Concerto at Bowdoin (a festival I attended as a student) and performing Ravel’s Tzigane with Keith Lockhart at the Brevard Festival. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I look forward to sharing the Rautavaara and Ravel with audiences in Kansas City!


Kansas City Symphony Classical Series
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: SIBELIUS’ SECOND

Friday and Saturday, March 24-25 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 26 at 2 p.m.
Helzberg Hall | Kauffman Center

Michael Stern, conductor
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin

NIELSEN Overture to Maskarade
RAUTAVAARA Violin Concerto (world premiere)
RAVEL Tzigane
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 2

At a time when Finland was under Russian domination, Sibelius’ Second Symphony was viewed as a message of hope. Today, the fiercely dramatic and ultimately triumphant work is one of Sibelius’ most-loved compositions. The sparkling overture to Danish composer Nielsen’s opera, Maskarade, sets the stage for a tale of romance and mistaken identity. American virtuoso Anne Akiko Meyers stars in not one, but two works for violin and orchestra — the world premiere of Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s posthumous violin concerto and Ravel’s Tzigane, inspired by vibrant Gypsy music.

Student tickets are available for this concert. Please call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 to purchase.

Become a subscriber today! Subscribe Now

Listen to the Symphony podcast:

Read the Program Notes:

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Get to Know Guest Pianist Wei Luo

Wei Luo
Wei Luo

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.


Feb. 17-19To 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.

Get to Know Guest Conductor Ludovic Morlot

Ludovic MorlotSeattle 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.


Ludovic MorlotGuest 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.

 

 

 

 

Get to Know Christmas Festival Guest Soprano Lisa Vroman

Lisa Vroman
Lisa Vroman, soprano

Guest soprano Lisa Vroman joins the Kansas City Symphony, Symphony Chorus, Allegro Choirs of Kansas City and the Rezound! Handbell Ensemble for seven presentations of the Symphony’s annual Christmas Festival concerts Dec. 15-18 and 20. Tickets from $30 for adults and $15 for children. Reserve tickets online or call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400.

Tell us how you got your start in music. When did you know you were going to become a professional musician?
My mother was my junior high and high school choral music teacher from Upstate, New York. I played the flute and sang in chorus. I also loved sports! I went to The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, following my sister (also a music educator) and have an undergrad degree in music education. I then completed my masters (MFA) at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa. I also have an honorary doctorate from Potsdam.

I will add that my stepfather was a Robert Shaw Chorale singer in the 1950s and also was a graduate and choral professor at Potsdam! Music has been in my family DNA for many years!

Since you’re singing in the Kansas City Symphony Christmas Festival, we must ask if you have a favorite seasonal song or carol?
Since I sing multiple holiday symphony concerts, I do repeat many favorites each year… But having a choral upbringing means I am happiest when singing with a choir for the holidays. I could not pick one favorite.

Do you celebrate for the holidays? Do you have any traditions?
I sometimes do not get home until Christmas Eve … and am off again for a New Year’s concert elsewhere, so it is a really great work season. Even when starring as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera, or any show, you do not get holidays off as vacation. We are the entertainment for the rest of the world!

I do miss my family, as we are extremely close, but you have to make time the rest of the year.

Have you sung with the Kansas City Symphony in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center before?
Not with the Symphony, but I spent time in Kansas City getting my Equity card at KC Starlight Theatre one summer after grad school.

How much of your time is spent practicing vs. performing vs. traveling? Do you have much down time? What do you like to do during your leisure time?
Traveling takes a lot of energy. For example, I was with the Hong Kong Philharmonic last season, and it is tricky to fly, recover to sing, then recover after the flight home. I am constantly preparing for the next concert event, which means arranging music, learning new pieces and developing concerts and recitals. I also have been singing corporate events, recitals and giving master classes more and more.

In my “down” time” (not very much) my husband and I love working on our home, and we have a 2-year-old, 70-pound rescue dog named Barber (after American composer Samuel Barber).

Photo of Barber the dog, a 2-year-old, 70-pound rescue dog, who is named after American composer Samuel Barber
Photo of Barber the dog, a 2-year-old, 70-pound rescue dog, who is named after American composer Samuel Barber

Who is your favorite artist of all time and why?
It depends on what genre… Elly Ameling, Benita Valente, Barbara Cook, Ella Fitzgerald, Elton John… the list is a long one!

Since you’ll be in Kansas City for several days, is there anything else you want to do outside of the concert hall?
I will probably not spend a lot of time outside the concert hall/hotel. That is typical during a run of many concerts! You must eat well, exercise and rest. I have a project coming up in January and also will be learning music by composer Kurt Weill that week.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I have spoken to Maestro Jason Seber, and I am so looking forward to sharing the stage with him, the orchestra musicians and the two choirs. I have said I never get to see my family for the holidays, so I will just adopt your audience as my extended family.


Kansas City Symphony Christmas Festival is Dec. 15-18 and 20.
Kansas City Symphony Christmas Festival is Dec. 15-18 and 20.

Secure seats to the Kansas City Symphony Christmas Festival by visiting this page or by calling the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400.

Get to Know Guest Pianist Robert Levin

Pianist Robert Levin. Photo credit: Clive Barda
Pianist Robert Levin. Photo credit: Clive Barda

The Kansas City Symphony presents “Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn” featuring guest pianist Robert Levin and led by guest conductor Bernard Labadie on Nov. 25-27 in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Levin performs Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, and the program also includes two Mozart overtures from Don Giovanni and La clemenza di Tito, as well as Haydn’s Symphony No. 98. Tickets from $25. Call the Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select your seat here.

Tell us about Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, which you’re performing with the Kansas City Symphony for the Nov. 18-20 concerts.
It is deeply influenced by Mozart’s Concerto No. 24 (K.491), which is in the same key and had a profound influence on Beethoven. An oft-cited anecdote has him strolling through the Augarten, a public park in Vienna, with his friend the composer and later music publisher and merchant Johann Baptist Cramer. A performance of the Mozart concerto was taking place in the park. At a certain passage Beethoven grabbed his friend by the arm and cried out, “Cramer! Cramer! We shall NEVER be able to do anything like this!” Indeed, Mozart’s fondness for the key of C minor was taken over by Beethoven in such works as the Pathétique piano sonata, the sonatas Op. 10/1 and 111, the violin sonata Op. 30/2, the string quartet Op. 18/4 and the Fifth Symphony. In turn Beethoven’s Third Concerto influenced Rachmaninoff, who took over some of its characteristics (the key of C minor, the use of an exotic key, E major, for the middle movement, and a fugal passage in the finale). The first movement combines bravura and fire; the second is a profound spiritual experience, and the last movement a gypsy romp.

Do you have a favorite movement? If so, which one and why?
I don’t, because each is so intensely and irresistibly different, but the finale is particularly fun to play.

You’re known for your ability to improvise in the style of great composers, such as Mozart and Beethoven. Will you have the opportunity to improvise in these performances — will you play your own cadenzas?
Yes, I shall be improvising a total of five cadenzas — the long one in the first movement, and slower ones in the second movement (1) and the finale (3). These will stay within Beethoven’s language and are high-wire acts, because I do not prepare: they are absolutely off the cuff.

Tell us about guest conductor Bernard Labadie. How often have you two had the opportunity to collaborate?
Numerous times, in Canada and the U. S. I have enormous respect for Maestro Labadie. His recording of my completion to the Mozart Requiem, made immediately after 9/11, is one of the best. Collaborating with him is a great pleasure.

The programs also feature Mozart overtures from Don Giovanni and La clemenza di Tito. As a Mozart scholar, is there any other background or context that might fascinate or intrigue audiences about either of these two works?
Both were “rush jobs” at the last minute: Mozart wrote down the overture to Don Giovanni in the wee hours the night before the premiere: Constanze had to keep plying him with coffee and tell him stories to keep him awake. One can see this in the autograph: the notation of the first violin and bass lines is clear and careful, the other string voices a bit more hurried, the winds a bit more so and the brass and timpani are written at breakneck speed, with the note stems, which should be vertical, all drawn toward the right in a desperate attempt to get the overture on paper so the copyist could prepare the orchestral parts on time. In the case of La clemenza di tito the entire opera was composed in something like three weeks; Mozart did not have enough time to write the recitatives himself and his assistant, Franz Xaver Süssmayr (who later had the unenviable task of trying to finish the Requiem so that Mozart’s widow could receive the second half of the commission fee, which she needed urgently to feed her two sons) had to take that job over.

These concerts follow the Thanksgiving holiday, which is centered around food and family. We contend attending live music also makes for a lovely holiday tradition. What are you thankful for this year?
I am perpetually thankful that God brought my beloved wife, the piano virtuoso Ya-Fei Chuang, into my life.

What advice do you give to aspiring music students?
A piece of music tells a story. If you don’t tell a story that grabs the audience, no-one will listen. Be brave, take risks, build suspense, joy, terror, ecstasy. Keep people up at night thinking about how your performance changed their understanding of life. Do for music what Meryl Streep does for acting.

After Kansas City, where do you go next? What are other upcoming highlights for you this season?
To Juilliard, for one of my guest stints there; then to Burgundy to perform and record the Schubert piano trios with Noah Bendix-Balgley (concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic) and Peter Wiley (formerly of the Beaux-Arts Trio). In February I record nine of the Mozart sonatas on his piano for ECM (the other nine will be done in 2018). In March I tour for the second time with violinist Hilary Hahn. Later in the spring I solo with and conduct the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.

When you’re not making music, what other pastimes do you enjoy?
I’m a streetcar/light rail enthusiast.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I can’t wait to get back to Arthur Bryant’s for a burnt ends sandwich.

Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn
Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn

 

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.

 

Get to Know Guest Conductor Bernard Labadie

Bernard Labadie. Photo Credit: Francois Rivard
Bernard Labadie. Photo Credit: Francois Rivard

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!


Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn
Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn

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.