THERE’S NOTHING QUITE LIKE THE HAPPY EXPECTATION AND EXCITEMENT OF A new season! Dance dominates our opening weekend (Sept. 14-16). Rachmaninoff’s last major masterpiece, Symphonic Dances, is a piece I’ve come back to many times in my life, always finding something new. It’s not just Rachmaninoff’s signature romanticism, the magnificent melodies or the irresistible rhythmic momentum that captivate me. I love the nostalgic melancholy showing us how homesick he was for his native Russia long after he came to the United States. The concert opener couldn’t be quirkier or more fun than Aaron Jay Kernis’ New Era Dance, an energetic accompaniment to the political and social upheavals of the early 1990s. And for a long overdue treat we’ve not played in more than two decades, three great soloists join us for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto — Noah Geller, back from Seattle for these concerts, Mark Gibbs, celebrating his 20th anniversary as our principal cello, and Sean Chen, an immense talent whose debut here is also overdue.
The dancing continues with Beethoven’s Seventh (Oct. 5-7), which Wagner called “the apotheosis of the dance.” Whether or not Beethoven had that explicitly in mind is beside the point; we readily respond to its lilt. I met the wonderfully inventive composer Michael Kurth when I was conducting the Atlanta Symphony, where he’s a bass player, and I wanted to bring his colorful and evocative A Thousand Words to Kansas City as soon as I discovered it. I’m equally thrilled that the brilliant George Li is returning to perform Grieg’s Piano Concerto with us.
There was something very moving to me pairing Mozart’s exquisite Ave verum corpus (Hail, True Body) with J.S. Bach’s sacred motet “O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht” (O Jesus Christ, My Life’s Light) in our next concerts (Nov. 16-18). Mozart wrote 46 perfect measures essentially as a stream of consciousness, and it’s even more emotional realizing his life ended almost exactly six months later. Bach’s glorious music was meant for a funeral. Together, these deeply human utterances introduce John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls, his profound emotional response to those lost in the tragedy and sacrifice of 9/11. In all three, our Symphony Chorus musicians are the soloists. For me, the extraordinary life affirmation in every bar of Schubert’s monumental last symphony was absolutely fitting to bring our program full circle.
See you at the concerts!
MICHAEL STERN | Music Director, Kansas City Symphony
To secure seats, visit kcsymphony.org or call (816) 471-0400.