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.

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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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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.

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.

Get to Know Composer David Ludwig and Guest Violinist Bella Hristova

Violinist Bella Hristova. Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
Violinist Bella Hristova. Photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Editor’s note: Guest violinist Bella Hristova performs David Ludwig’s Violin Concerto (written expressly for her) with the Kansas City Symphony for the April 8-10 concerts in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. On the same program hear Ives’ Symphony No. 3, “The Camp Meeting,” Debussy’s Ibéria and Gershwin’s An American in Paris. Tickets start at $25. Select your seat online here or call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400.

1. Tell us about yourselves. How did you become professional musicians?
Bella: I was born in Bulgaria and started playing the violin when I was 6. I started with the violin because my mother wanted me to. My father was a composer and my mom played piano and was a choral conductor. I was very drawn to the piano as a young child, but it was her dream for me to play violin. Now of course, it’s become my dream and I love playing the violin — but I also love listening to piano music.

David: I grew up in a very musical family, but kept my own life as a musician pretty private until after I began on my own career path. I started getting commissions and making a life as a professional composer in my mid-twenties.

When I was 6, I wanted to be a steam roller, but quickly realized that wasn’t possible. So after that, I tried lessons on as many instruments as I could, settling on a few … but all along I was interested in writing — second to composing was playwriting. I’ve come to think that being a composer is like the merging of being a playwright and musician.

David Ludwig, composer.
David Ludwig, composer.

2. How did this commission come about, and what is the intent for the piece?
David: This commission is the result of a long conversation between Bella and me, Jaime Laredo, and Alan Jordan. Alan had the idea for the concerto with the Vermont Symphony (Alan is executive director with the Delaware Symphony now). Jaime is the music director of the VSO and they became the lead commissioner. Jaime has been an incredible mentor and friend to both Bella and me, and the thought was that the violin concerto would celebrate our marriage in some way. The commission became a consortium of eight orchestras total with additional support from New Music USA.

With a consortium, everybody wins — the composer and soloist get to have the piece played multiple times, and orchestras each get to premiere a new work regionally for a more feasible buy-in than if they were the sole commissioner. We love this because it means we can share this piece with audiences and have it played by terrific groups like the Kansas City Symphony.

3. Can you describe the movements?
(From the program notes) The piece is about the ritual of marriage, and it imagines the before, during, and after a traditional wedding ceremony.

The first movement “Dances” begins with a loud crash–a jarring but transformative start to something new that transitions into a waltz-like music soon after. All told there are four dances in the first movement, connected by a cadenza and concluded by a Rachenitsa in its traditional irregular meter. The second movement “Ceremony” follows the progression of the wedding ritual. A slow unraveling processional is woven throughout the fabric of this movement, ending in musical rings created by the rise and fall of the violin against solo instruments in the orchestra. The third movement “The Festival” is my version of a Krivo Horo or “Crooked Dance” that captures the way people attempt to walk home after a great party. The music is celebratory to the end, reflecting the coming together of a community inspired by two people promised to preserve each other’s wellbeing for the rest of their lives.

4. For Bella, what do you love most about this concerto?
Bella: It’s difficult to pick a favorite part of something this meaningful — and David has hidden little gems throughout the piece, such as our initials at the end of the second movement. Perhaps the most personal quote and one of my favorite things about it is that he quotes about 10 measures from my father’s violin concerto in the Ceremony movement. My dad passed away when I was very young and I never got to know him — and this way David found a way that my dad could be in some way involved in our wedding!

5. For David, what do you love most about your work?
David: That my beautiful and extraordinarily talented wife is premiering it! I have been thinking about this piece since we started together nearly six years ago.

6. Will this be your first time in Kansas City, and first time performing with the Kansas City Symphony?
Bella: Yes, it’s my first time in Kansas City and first time performing with the Symphony. I have many friends in the orchestra and have known Maestro Stern for quite a few years now, so I’m thrilled for us to come together for a very exciting week of music making!

David: Also my first time on both counts. And ditto/agreed on the rest. We have many good friends in that orchestra, and we’ve both known and admired Michael Stern for a long time. Also, I’m going to need to try the barbecue as soon as possible.

7. When you’re not making music, what other activities or pastimes do you enjoy?
Bella: I love spending time with our two cats, Uni and Schmoopy, watching TV, playing video games and solving jigsaw puzzles.

David: I guess I don’t have a lot of hobbies, but I love teaching and working with people and communities while on residencies. I spend a fair amount of time reading articles about music, science, and movies online — and probably too much time on Twitter and Facebook.

(The cats do keep us busy, but I’ll remind my wife that we have a pact not to bring them up when under 10 minutes of an interview or 500 words…)

8. What do you hope audiences take away from the performances?
David: For me, I want the concerto to share its message of partnership, empathy, and communion. But even before the message is the experience — I want the audience to be engaged in and moved by the music from the opening crash of the piece to the fast ending scales. And between soloist, orchestra, and conductor — to extend the playwright analogy — I have incredible actors and a great director to make it happen.

Bella: I am so excited to share this very personal and special work with the audiences of Kansas City. I hope they will see this great new concerto coming to life right in front of them.

9. Anything else you’d like to add?
David: I can’t wait!

Bella: Ditto! Also, barbecue!!!


To secure your tickets to hear guest violinist Bella Hristova perform David Ludwig’s Violin Concerto (written expressly for her) with the Kansas City Symphony for the April 8-10 concerts in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, visit the ticket page here or call the Symphony Box Office between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tickets start at $25. Also on the program is Ives’ Symphony No. 3, “The Camp Meeting,” Debussy’s Ibéria and Gershwin’s An American in Paris.

Get to Know Guest Violinist Vadim Gluzman

Vadim Gluzman. photo: Marco Borggreve
photo: Marco Borggreve

Guest violinist Vadim Gluzman appears as soloist with the Kansas City Symphony Feb. 5-7 to perform Brahms’ Violin Concerto. Visit the concert listing page for more information on programming and tickets.

What are you most looking forward to in your upcoming performances with the Kansas City Symphony in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts?
Return engagement are always very special for me and coming back to perform with an orchestra which I know and like very much, working with a conductor with whom we truly speak the same musical language is a great pleasure and a privilege. Working with Michael Stern has always been a special experience — he is a musician of incredible depth, artistic honesty and one of the most sensitive partners — a real inspiration!

And of course to make music in the spectacular Kauffman Center — an absolute joy!

What do you love about the Brahms Violin Concerto? Do you have a favorite part or movement? If so, which one(s) and why?
Brahms concerto is one of two or three perfect masterworks in the violin concerto repertoire, a real Mount Everest. The challenge is humongous, but the rewards — artistic, musical, emotional — are just as incredible. Every note in this piece is “gold,” and pointing at one part as my favorite is really impossible. But if I were to draw the attention of our audience to one of many special moments — listen to the very end of the violin cadenza the way the orchestra joins in — as close to heaven as we will ever get!!!

What was your path to becoming a professional violinist? Did you always know you were destined to make music your career?
I started my musical education at 7, and naturally, at that age we do not ask ourselves such questions. I don’t think I would be able to point at one day or a moment when I realized that I wanted to be a violinist. By the time I was 14 or 15, I had realized that I can not imagine doing anything else, I simply can’t live without it. In a way, playing the violin became who I am, what I am…

I had the most amazing teachers — Arkady Fomin, Dorothy DeLay, among others. I also was fortunate to work with Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman, and later to perform with some of the greatest conductors of our day. They helped shape my musical vision, gave me confidence and inspired me to continue on my path.

What advice do you have for young musicians hoping to improve their ear or performance?
Listen to yourself, listen to your colleges, friends, teachers! Listening is the greatest tool, the greatest way to learn and improve. Playing and studying chamber music in depth for me is single most important part of becoming an all-rounded musician.

What’s next for you after Kansas City?
Right after I perform in Kansas City, I continue to New Orleans to perform with the Louisiana Philharmonic and Carlos Miguel Prieto, a special performance with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in New York, followed by a European tour. Some important highlights this season are a recital in London’s Wigmore Hall, premiere of new violin concerto of Lera Auerbach at the Proms, a residency at Colorado Music Festival and a tour in Australia.


Concert Tickets:

To hear guest violinist perform Brahms Violin Concerto with the Kansas City Symphony under the baton of conductor Michael Stern, call (816) 471-0400 or select your seat online. The program also includes Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony and John Adams’ The Chairman DancesFoxtrot for Orchestra. Tickets start at $25.

Inextinguishable Art

Text by Michael Stern, music director

Editor’s note: The Kansas City Symphony performs Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4, “Inextinguishable” on the May 1-3 concerts. Learn more.

Composer Carl Nielsen
Composer Carl Nielsen

Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4 conveys the horrors of war, and simultaneously, the incredible power of music as a reflection of the enduring human spirit.

In our season highlighting the decade and a half that culminated in the outbreak of the First World War, it would have been unthinkable to exclude composer Carl Nielsen.

Art is always a mirror of the world at large. However, the modernism that defined the seismic shift into the 20th century in all the arts, especially music, remains unparalleled in variety and creativity. Even a partial list of composers from the time is a who’s who of genius: Mahler, Schoenberg, Berg, Sibelius, Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, de Falla, Vaughan Williams, Elgar — the list goes on, and without doubt, Nielsen holds his rightful place in that impressive company.

Specifically this season, there is a more compelling argument for the inclusion of Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, “The Inextinguishable.” While not heard nearly as ubiquitously as some of its contemporaries, Nielsen’s “Inextinguishable” is a true masterpiece, and an extraordinarily bracing, unsettling, riveting, and ultimately, thrillingly beautiful creation.

Written between 1914 and 1916, in the bloody first years of the terrible war, the piece is a reflection of a world blown up, and at the same time, fervent evidence of the power of music. At the outset of the first movement, the ignition of an elemental power sets the stage for the entire symphony — it is a wakeup call to an endangered humanity. The inherent compositional logic of the entire work is clear: the climactic “glorioso” at the end of the first section of the opening movement returns at the end of that same movement, and then again, thrillingly, at the very end of the entire symphony. But beyond the logical composition structure, Nielsen is not interested in making the messy or painful elements of that era’s human experience cohere into an easy and serene whole. There is conflict, friction and unease throughout the four interlinked movements. We witness the gunshot-like viola passages in the middle of the second movement, the desperate scream from the violins at the opening of the third, and in one of the most dramatic compositional strokes, the duel between the two timpani in the last movement.

And yet at the end, the triumph of the human spirit is gloriously intact, and along with it, the life-affirming power of music. In the context of the horror of the Great War, this music is extraordinarily moving, as Nielsen describes it:

The symphony evokes the most primal sources of life … Music can do just this, it is its most profound quality, its true domain … because, by simply being itself, it has performed its task. For it is life, whereas the other arts only represent and paraphrase life. Life is indomitable and inextinguishable … music is life, and like it inextinguishable.


Conductor Michael Stern leads the Symphony
Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg

Conductor Michael Stern leads the Kansas City Symphony in Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4, “Inextinguishable” on the May 1-3 concerts. Tickets start at $25. The program also includes R. Strauss’ Don Juan and W.A. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 featuring Steven Lin, a finalist in the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Learn more and select your seats online.