Why is Schubert’s No. 9 “The Great” so Great?

Kansas City Symphony | Photo Todd Rosenberg
Kansas City Symphony | Photo Todd Rosenberg

Lots of famous symphonies have nicknames. Think Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony, Beethoven’s “Eroica,” Mozart’s “Jupiter” and many more.

During the Kansas City Symphony’s Nov. 16-18 Classical Series concerts, the orchestra will perform one of these well-known nicknamed works — Schubert’s Ninth, “The Great.”

Franz Schubert painting
Oil painting of Franz Schubert by Wilhelm August Rieder (1875), made from his own 1825 watercolor portrait.

Music historians suggest Schubert’s Ninth received “The Great” moniker as simply a way to distinguish it from his Symphony No. 6 (also in C Major), which is now sometimes called the “Little C Major.” The much grander No. 9 is also longer, measuring about 48 minutes versus No. 6 at roughly 27 minutes.

For fun, Symphony musicians and staff weighed in on why they think Schubert’s “Great” is just that … great. Here are some of their responses:

  1. Other great composers revered this symphony. Hector Berlioz wrote that Schubert’s Ninth “is, to my thinking, worthy of a place among the loftiest productions of our art.” — Frank Byrne, executive director.
  1. Schubert’s “Great” is equally majestic and innovative, and it is even more impressive that it stands out as one of Schubert’s greatest achievements given that it was written only one year after Beethoven’s Ninth. — Jason Seber, David T. Beals III Associate Conductor.
  1. I love the piece. As a violin player, it’s so rewarding to play, especially the Finale — technically challenging and musically satisfying! — Chiafei Lin, acting assistant concertmaster.
  1. It has one of the greatest trombone parts in the repertoire. About Schubert’s time, trombones were used mostly for special effect, change and color in the orchestra. Schubert’s “Great” C Major was one of the first times that trombones were used in a very egalitarian way. There are solo parts in each instrument; the section itself has big solo portions. It’s not until Mahler, actually, that composers used the trombone in the same kind of way that the other sections were used in the orchestra. — Roger Oyster, principal trombone.
  1. Majestic timpani rolls! — Christopher McLaurin, principal percussion.
  1. I love this quote from Robert Schumann’s essay discussing the work, “Here we find, besides the most masterly compositional technique, life in every fiber; coloring down to the finest gradation; meaning everywhere; sharp expression in detail; and in the whole a suffusing Romanticism such as other works of Franz Schubert have already made known to us.

“And the heavenly length of the symphony, like that of a thick novel in four volumes by, say, Jean Paul, another who can never come to an end, and indeed for the best reason, to give the reader something to chew on afterwards. How this refreshes, this feeling of rich and ubiquitous abundance, so contrary to one’s experience with others, when one always dreads being let down at the end and is often sadly disappointed.”

Schumann summed it up very well in that the music of Schubert explores all facets of emotion, of life, of experiences, and most importantly always leaves us yearning for more.

My favorite part of the Schubert’s Ninth Symphony is the 2nd movement, after the climax and after the Grand Pause … heavenly indeed. — Kristina Fulton, principal oboe.

  1. Because in the purest sense of the word, this work is humanity distilled into one soaring and timeless song.

Schubert was a song composer, though his gifts for chamber and orchestral music are clear. But then, at the age of 30, he transcends the form of the symphony in a way that practically no other work does. Other symphonies have broken out of their molds as new creations of form — think the Berlioz Symphonie fantastique or Mahler. But in the propulsion, the energy, the optimism tinged with nostalgia and sadness which yields inevitably to elation and triumph, and especially the long-lined lyricism, this piece is nature and humanity transported to a higher realm. — Michael Stern, music director.

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To hear your Kansas City Symphony perform Schubert’s Ninth “The Great” on the Nov. 16-18 concerts, visit kcsymphony.org or call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400. The program, led by conductor Michael Stern, also includes Bach’s “O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht,” Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus and John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls. Tickets start at $25. All concerts held in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

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From the Desk of Michael Stern | 2018/19 Classical Series Begins

DEAR FRIENDS,

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, Music Director Michael Sternalways 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


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

Individual Tickets for 2018/19 Kansas City Symphony Concerts Available July 30, Announcing Classics Uncorked

Tickets for Wynonna, Carmina Burana, Lyle Lovett, plus music of Gershwin, Star Wars, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and more on sale at 10 a.m. Monday, July 30

From blockbuster movie concerts to some of the absolute best classical repertoire, the Kansas City Symphony’s 2018/19 season offers thrilling live music for everyone in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Single tickets will be available for purchase starting at 10 a.m. Monday, July 30 via kcsymphony.org or by calling the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400.

While September and October concerts have been on sale for several weeks, the Symphony’s July 30 on-sale puts the rest of the Symphony season up for grabs. Tickets to all holiday, movie and special concerts, plus tributes honoring the music of George Gershwin, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston will be available. Highlights include:

Classical Series

Pops Series

Family Series

Holiday Concerts

Special Concertserts

2018/19 Classics Uncorked Series
The Classics Uncorked Series returns with three fun, one-hour casual concerts led by David T. Beals III Associate Conductor Jason Seber. Most tickets are $25 and include a free glass of wine or champagne following the performance when guests can mingle with Symphony musicians in Kauffman Center’s stunning Brandmeyer Great Hall. Sponsored by BMO Wealth Management.

  • Classics Uncorked: Bach, Bluegrass and Bourbon | Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.
    Ready for some toe-tappin’ fun? We’re bringing a little Kentucky to KC. Come hear some bluegrass pickin’ and pluckin’ plus Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. In addition to the post-concert wine reception, a special selection of bourbons will be available for tasting.
  • Classics Uncorked: Grammy® Greats | Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019 at 7 p.m.
    We’ve handpicked some of the best Grammy® Award-winning music for a one-night-only showcase in the world-class acoustics of Helzberg Hall. You’ll hear excerpts from the film “Up” by Michael Giacchino, an arrangement of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and music by Aaron Copland, Joan Tower and Jennifer Higdon. Principal Viola Christine Grossman stars in Higdon’s Viola Concerto.
  • Classics Uncorked: Secrets Revealed | Thursday, June 13, 2019 at 7 p.m.
    When the backstory is as intriguing as the music, we have to pull back the curtain! Elgar’s Enigma Variations captures the essence of his friends and even himself in 14 variations on an enigmatic theme. Plus, many speculate his work contains an overarching hidden theme. Masquerade by Anna Clyne conjures up a mid-18th century London promenade concert with street entertainers.

Free Happy Hour Concerts
The Free Symphony Happy Hour Concerts featuring chamber music programmed by Symphony musicians are back with seven concerts for the 2018/19 season. Dates to reserve free general admission tickets vary. See website or call Symphony Box Office for additional details. Sponsored by Lead Bank.

Sounds Relaxing
A relatively new concert format for the Symphony, these soothing programs feature guided meditation by certified Relax and Renew® trainer Anita Bailey along with soft, gentle chamber music selections. Tickets are $15, inclusive of all fees.

Information for additional 2018/19 concerts, including Sensory Friendly concerts, TubaChristmas, and Petite Performances can be found at kcsymphony.org.

Season ticket holders may exchange and purchase individual tickets ahead of the public during the Symphony’s subscriber courtesy week, July 23-27, at a discount of $5 per adult ticket (exclusions may apply). Single tickets go on sale Monday, July 23 at 10 a.m. Tickets are available through the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or kcsymphony.org. View the 2018/19 season subscription brochure.

Free Kansas City Symphony Concert, Fireworks, Family Activities, Veteran Services on Deck for 2018 Bank of America Celebration at the Station

The Symphony’s 16th annual Memorial Day weekend event features live pre-show music, food trucks, family activities, veteran services, Symphony concert and KC’s largest fireworks display.

The Kansas City Symphony welcomes all ages to its 16th annual Bank of America Celebration at the Station on Sunday, May 27, held at Union Station.

As the largest FREE Memorial Day Weekend event in the Midwest, with an expected attendance of 50,000, the Symphony continues to expand its annual gift to the region while honoring the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Grounds open at 3 p.m. with pre-concert entertainment by the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America’s Hot Brass! ensemble, A La Mode and Heartland Men’s Chorus. Adding to the festivities, an array of family friendly activities in the Lee Jeans Family Zone, veteran offerings in the Honeywell Veterans Place and nearly 20 food trucks, will be on site.

The Honeywell Veterans Place includes the Veterans Community Project tiny home model, the V.A. Mobile Vet unit, Kansas City Public Television’s large-scale Vietnam map, Warrior’s Best Friend, KC Association of the United States Army (AUSA), Bank of America’s financial health information and resources for veterans and active-duty military, as well as a tent with even more resources and opportunities for veterans.

At 8 p.m., Music Director Michael Stern will lead the Kansas City Symphony and guests in a 100-minute, no-intermission concert filled with patriotic favorites such as “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Armed Forces Salute” and Tchaikovsky’s ever-rousing “1812 Overture.”

To recognize the great Leonard Bernstein, who would have been 100 this year, the Symphony will perform selections from the musical “On the Town.” As orchestras across the world commemorate Bernstein this year, the Kansas City Symphony continues its celebration of the composer not only in this outdoor concert but also at its season finale concerts, June 22-24, with Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety performed by guest pianist Ran Dank.

To mark the 100th anniversary of WWI ending in 1918, guest baritone John Brancy will sing a WWI-era song, “God Be with Our Boys Tonight” as well as “Danny Boy.” Guest host and narrator Jim Birdsall (announcer for CNBC and NFL Films) and members of the U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America also will take part in the concert, including Airman First Class Melissa Edgmon who will sing “God Bless America” and “Star-Spangled Banner” with a flyover by KC Flight.

The program culminates at 9:40 p.m. with a grand finale when all eyes turn skyward for the city’s largest display of choreographed fireworks, presented to the beat of patriotic music and overlooking the National World War I Museum and Memorial.

Attendees are encouraged to take the Kansas City streetcar, which is free to ride, and will operate until 11 p.m. The streetcar runs a 2-mile loop with 16 stops from the River Market area through downtown and the Crossroads Arts District to Union Station, which is the event stop. For additional parking options, view a map here.

As the event draws near, the Symphony will post details regarding pre-show entertainment, special exhibits and more at kcsymphony.org/celebration and on the Symphony’s FacebookTwitterInstagram and Snapchat accounts. The official event hashtag is #celebrationkc.

Kansas City Public Television (KCPT) will broadcast the event live on Channel 19 and re-air the event on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28. The rebroadcast airs regionally on Independence Day as well. For the first time, the Bridge 90.9 FM also will live stream the concert on the radio and online at bridge909.org.

Remembering Leonard Bernstein

By Michael Stern, music director

Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 years old on August 25, 2018. As we launch into his centenary, we devote these varied programs to celebrating his legacy, and it is right and fitting, and should come as no surprise to anyone. No musician before him, and none since, has loomed quite as large on the musical landscape. No one has had such a multifaceted impact, mostly because no one has been so multitalented. No musician ever stood for music, for the arts, and for the social impact of what music and musicians might accomplish more than he did. Now, more than ever, I think about that, and him.

Leonard Bernstein

Lenny — as he exhorted everyone to call him — identified himself as a composer, though he was in fact so much more. It’s impossible, in considering the totality of what he was, to separate his private musical muse from his onstage personality as a performer or his social profile as a public figure. His legacy as a composer, however, is undeniable. The synergy of his imagination and talent collided spectacularly with the energy and possibility of America as she emerged from World War II. Ambition, daring, enormous hard work and a refusal to be straightjacketed by the conventions of the past defined the post-war climate in our country, and these are all hallmarks of his music. Lenny threw open the gates to allow American music to express itself in a completely new way. There had been authentically American composers who made their mark, of course, from Ives, Griffes and all of Tin Pan Alley, including Gershwin, to his own contemporaries. Lenny intimately knew and understood their music, and chief among them was his mentor Aaron Copland. However, in his synthesis of popular music, jazz, Jewish folk and sacred music as well as his deep understanding of the language of Western Art music from Baroque to its most modern iterations, Lenny was unique.

In trying to represent his eclectic legacy, I chose works to celebrate his many facets as a musician. Aside from unassailable masterpieces such as West Side Story and Serenade for Violin and Orchestra, we hear his easy gift as a vocal composer in some of his songs from Arias and Barcarolles and Songfest as well as his Broadway classics. The ambitious and extraordinarily creative leap of faith in his gigantic theater piece Mass is given haunting expression for cello and orchestra in his arrangement of Three Meditations. His love of piano and jazz is exuberantly on display in The Age of Anxiety. He even got it right in Hollywood. While never having written for a movie before, with no prior knowledge or experience, his score for “On the Waterfront” is a model of how integral music can be to the unfolding narrative on the screen. Yet the music also stands on its own as a work of extraordinary power and beauty.

For all American musicians, Lenny was much more than a composer. As a pianist, educator, TV personality, and above all, conductor, Lenny was the face of American music for almost half a century. For me, growing up in New York, his tenure at the Philharmonic and his celebrated Young People’s Concerts were my hometown fare. His personality was hypnotizing to me, even as a child. A lifelong friend and professional colleague of my father, Lenny and his wife Felicia were close with both of my parents. We lived across the hall from Phyllis Newman and Adolph Green, Lenny’s closest childhood friend with whom he collaborated for On the Town and many other works, and our three families mingled together easily.

Michael and Shira
Michael Stern, age 4, at the New York Philharmonic in 1963 with his older sister, Shira.

Lenny also guided me during my time at Harvard University and the Curtis Institute of Music. I remember to this day the hours Lenny spent talking to me on the phone and in person when I was writing my undergraduate senior thesis about Copland, Gershwin and Marc Blitzstein, sharing his unique insights on these people he knew well. But, as a conducting student, I realized how much of a hero he was to me. Lenny’s music-making was larger than life, whether you agreed with every musical choice or not. Well before he invited me as one of three young conductors to appear with him on a program at the New York Philharmonic, I sat in the orchestra at Curtis with him on the podium. It was then I realized that, more than anyone I had ever witnessed, Lenny could instantly transmit to the players in front of him much more than how to play together and in balance. Playing for him, you knew clearly where and when to play, but much more importantly, why. To me, there has never been anything, or anyone, quite like that.

I miss him more than ever.

Leonard Bernstein b&w


Upcoming Kansas City Symphony concerts featuring the music of Leonard Bernstein:

A Century of Bernstein: BEETHOVEN’S “EROICA” with BERNSTEIN’S SERENADE
Friday and Saturday, February 2-3, 2018 at 8 p.m. | Sunday, February 4, 2018 at 2 p.m.

Free Symphony Happy Hour: BERNSTEIN and BEYOND
Wednesday, February 7 at 6 p.m.

A Century of Bernstein: BERNSTEIN, PROKOFIEV and SCHUMANN
Friday and Saturday, February 23-24, 2018 at 8 p.m. | Sunday, February 25, 2018 at 2 p.m.

A Century of Bernstein: JOYCE DiDONATO SINGS BERNSTEIN and BERLIOZ
Friday and Saturday, March 16-17, 2018 at 8 p.m. | Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 2 p.m.

A Century of Bernstein: YO-YO MA, PINES OF ROME and BERNSTEIN
Friday and Saturday, March 23-24, 2018 at 8 p.m. | Sunday, March 25, 2018 at 2 p.m.

A Century of Bernstein: BEETHOVEN, TCHAIKOVSKY & BERNSTEIN
Friday and Saturday, April 13-14, 2018 at 8 p.m. | Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 2 p.m.

A Century of Bernstein: SEASON FINALE FANTASTIQUE with BERNSTEIN
Friday and Saturday, June 22-23, 2018 at 8 p.m. | Sunday, June 24, 2018 at 2 p.m.

To purchase tickets, click on the links above for concert details or call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.

Kansas City Symphony Increases Endowment by $55 Million with Historic 5-Year Campaign

Kansas City Symphoyn - 2017 - Todd RosenbergMore than 1,000 donors collectively committed $55 million to the Masterpiece Campaign, raising $3 million in the final 6 months.

Thanks to many generous donors the Kansas City Symphony has completed the Masterpiece Endowment Campaign, its largest fundraising effort to date, raising just over $55 million in new endowment funds to strengthen and secure the future of the Symphony.

“Completing the Masterpiece Campaign is a landmark accomplishment for the Symphony and our community,” said Kansas City Symphony Executive Director Frank Byrne. “As the region’s largest performing arts organization, reaching hundreds of thousands of people each year, we are deeply invested in the Kansas City community. It is wonderful to see the community respond so generously to invest in the Symphony, thereby enabling us to build on all the important work we have done. We are very grateful to all who donated to the campaign, and to our Chair, Bill Lyons, whose leadership and tireless efforts were essential to our success.”

The Kansas City community responded enthusiastically to the campaign, contributing $52 million quietly over 4 1/2 years and $3 million during the concluding six-month public phase. Together, more than 1,000 donors pledged gifts ranging from $10 to $10 million during the five-year period. When all campaign pledges are fulfilled, the Kansas City Symphony’s endowment will total more than $100 million, bringing it to a level comparable with peer organizations. With an annual operating budget of nearly $17 million, the Symphony plans to draw an average of 4 percent annually from endowment. In time, this will translate to roughly $4 million or just less than a quarter of the annual operating budget.

The Masterpiece Campaign grew out of the Symphony board’s goal to continue the artistic and financial success that has distinguished the Kansas City Symphony. Through a comprehensive financial analysis and study of industry best practices, the Symphony observed that the most successful American orchestras required a robust endowment to supplement ongoing and growing annual fundraising. While the completion of the Masterpiece Campaign will provide a much more stable base of funding, Symphony leaders understand that operating expenses will continue to grow and that a growing annual fundraising effort will be required to sustain the Symphony’s impressive momentum.

“The success of the Masterpiece Campaign provides powerful evidence of our community’s belief that the arts are essential,” said Campaign and Board Chair Bill Lyons. “As a result of the extraordinary generosity of our donors and the passionate work of our campaign staff and volunteers, we have dramatically increased the likelihood that top tier, live orchestral music will be part of Kansas City for this generation and many to come. We are so fortunate to have the strong, longstanding artistic and administrative leadership of Michael Stern and Frank Byrne, the strong Symphony Boards, past and present, led by civic leaders like Crosby Kemper and Shirley Helzberg, a magnificent performance venue in the Kauffman Center, and a community that believes in philanthropy like no other. All of these came together to achieve this unprecedented result.”

While it is common to cover endowment campaign expenses out of donations, the Kansas City Symphony broke this mold. Instead, the Symphony funded all endowment campaign expenses from its annual operating budget.

“What the Kansas City Symphony was able to achieve with this campaign is remarkable in many regards,” said Peter Hoskow, Principal and Managing Director of CCS Fundraising, the international fundraising consulting firm that partnered with the Symphony at various stages of the campaign’s activity. “Symphonies across the U.S. and around the world are struggling due to rising costs, decreasing demand and difficulties raising money. Despite the challenges faced by so many of these organizations, the Kansas City Symphony was able to execute a powerful campaign that will ensure this cultural icon will have a positive impact on the community for years to come. Even more, they were able to conduct this campaign in a truly efficient manner. No donations were spent on campaign expenses; all expenses were resourced from the organization’s operations budget. In our experience working with dozens of orchestras, this is an incredible accomplishment. We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to partner with such an amazing organization in the design, early management, and ongoing evaluation of this extraordinary campaign.”

The Kansas City Symphony has played a key role in shaping the artistic landscape of Kansas City. As a driver of the city’s cultural renaissance, the Symphony is setting the standard for how a professional symphony orchestra can thrive and be connected to its community.

  • The Symphony provides nearly 70 percent of the live music at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, presenting more than 100 performances each season of 45 different programs. The Kansas City Symphony also plays 60 performances with the Kansas City Ballet and Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
  • Each season, nearly 75,000 people attend a free Kansas City Symphony performance, and more than 50,000 adults and children participate in Symphony education programs.
  • After six seasons at the Kauffman Center, the Symphony continues to increase audiences with an innovative and smart mix of programming.
  • Advancing its destination reputation, the Symphony has attracted attendees from nearly all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico plus more than a dozen foreign countries each season since 2011.
  • The Symphony helps make our city a vital and thriving community, creating a $22-million annual impact on the economy, generating $1.7 million in state and local taxes.

The completion of the Masterpiece Campaign is the latest in a series of successes defining the organization’s evolution in recent years.

  • In June 2016 and one year before its expiration, Symphony management and musicians harmoniously extended their collective bargaining agreement through June 2021.
  • The Symphony has successfully extended contracts with Music Director Michael Stern (through 2019-20), Symphony Chorus Director Charles Bruffy (through 2019-20) and David T. Beals III Associate Conductor Jason Seber (through 2018-19).
  • The organization has set all-time records in attendance and revenue in recent seasons.
  • For many years, the Symphony has balanced its budget (or better) and devoted more than 70 percent of its annual budget toward programming.

Music Director Michael Stern said the combination of these elements makes it thrilling and rewarding to be part of the Kansas City Symphony family.

“Successfully completing the $55 million Masterpiece Endowment Campaign is significant for all of us at the Kansas City Symphony,” Stern said. “It’s a wonderful testament to the deep connection we have with our family of donors and advocates throughout our community. This watershed moment gives us the artistic and organizational stability that will allow us to continue the artistic evolution for which we have worked so diligently over the last 12 years. With this new chapter, we can and will continue to advocate for great music, and to be a model for how music and the arts can and must inform a great American city in the 21st century.”

To celebrate and acknowledge this milestone, the Symphony plans to hold an event in the spring for those who contributed $1,000 or more to the Masterpiece Campaign. Those who wish to contribute to the Symphony’s endowment or annual fund may call (816) 471-1100 or visit kcsymphony.org.

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 today 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.

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.

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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.

Guest violinist Stefan Jackiw talks with the Kansas City Symphony

Stefan Jackiw
Stefan Jackiw

Guest violinist Stefan Jackiw will perform the Korngold Violin Concerto on Opening Weekend (Sept 30-Oct. 2) with the Kansas City Symphony.

Tell us about the Korngold Concerto you will be playing with the Symphony.
Korngold was most well-known as a film composer. This violin concerto, although not film music, is filled with cinematic drama and sweep, heart-on-your-sleeve romance, and kinetic energy. I particularly love the unabashed expressiveness of the first and second movements. The slow movement gets me right in the feels every time.

How do you feel about returning to perform with the Kansas City Symphony? What are looking forward to?
I love playing with the Kansas City Symphony! The orchestra sounds so great and is so supportive to work with. I have some friends from school days in the orchestra, so it’s always nice to reconnect with them. Also, you guys seriously have one of the most gorgeous halls in the world. It’s such a treat to play there. And Michael Stern strikes a tone in rehearsal that is both serious and thoughtful but also at times playfully irreverent, which somehow brings us all closer together. Also, KC BBQ…

Have you recorded anything lately?
I just finished recording the complete sonatas of Charles Ives with one of my favorite musicians, pianist Jeremy Denk. Ives’ music has a reputation of being thorny, and while that’s true, at the core his music is about nostalgia, memory, and longing for the past, all very Romantic themes. I love his music deeply and feel so fortunate to have made this recording.

What are your sources of motivation and inspiration?
So many. Composers and their lives. Who was Brahms? What was Beethoven’s life like? What made Mozart tick? Also other musicians I get to work with. Books I’ve read, films, friends.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Read, watch great movies, cook, watch terrible movies, Netflix, running, chill with friends.

What are some highlights for the 2016-17 season for you? Where are you headed to next?
Immediately after KC, I’m headed to Amsterdam to perform at the Concertgebouw, which is another one of the world’s great halls with a great history and tradition behind it. I love playing there, and I love the city. After the two halls in KC and Amsterdam, I’m going to be so spoiled…


Stefan Jackiw performs with the Kansas City Symphony
Guest Violinist Stefan Jackiw will perform Korngold’s Violin Concerto with the Kansas City Symphony.

Kansas City Symphony’s Opening Weekend: Tchaikovsky’s Fourth also features Patrick Harlan’s Rapture and Stefan Jackiw as soloist for the Korngold Violin Concerto. Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased through online or by calling the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400.