Home »     Press Room »          Symphony News

KC STAR CLASSICAL BEAT: Violinist Augustin Hadelich joins KC Symphony for an eclectic program

Violinist Augustin Hadelich will be the guest soloist with the Kansas City Symphony June 15-17. File photoBY PATRICK NEAS 
Special to The Star
June 10, 2018 06:28 PM
Updated June 10, 2018 06:28 PM

As the Kansas City Symphony’s current season winds down, recent news of the impending departures of concertmaster Noah Geller at the end of this season and executive director Frank Byrne at the end of next season has left the orchestra’s fans and well-wishers feeling wistful. There is gratitude for what both men have contributed to the orchestra and the city, but also sadness at seeing these two important figures leave.

The Symphony’s penultimate concert June 15 to 17 at Helzberg Hall should lift spirits, however. Music director Michael Stern will conduct a program that includes intriguing contemporary works by Einojuhani Rautavaara and Thomas Adès, as well as a violin concerto by Joseph Haydn and one of Felix Mendelssohn’s most popular symphonies.

Opening the concert is “Cantus Arcticus” by Rautavaara. Like Jean Sibelius before him, Rautavaara was a Finnish composer with a deep connection to nature. Perhaps no work of his better demonstrates this than his “Cantus Arcticus.” The piece uses recordings of arctic bird songs, but the effect is not gimmicky.

“There’s something really beautiful about Rautavaara’s music,” Stern said. “In the ‘Cantus Arcticus’ there is this connection with nature, which is kind of mystical. Incorporating these bird song recordings is not like added filigree. It’s not an afterthought. It’s a really integral part of the point of the piece. Especially the last movement, the one with the swans, is so beautiful. It’s so beautiful.”

After Rautavaara’s arctic music, Augustin Hadelich is the soloist for Haydn’s bracing Violin Concerto No. 1.

“Haydn was a miracle of creativity,” Stern said. “He was innovating and looking for new paths before Mozart came along. This violin concerto is buoyant and happy and brilliant. The slow movement is one of the most simple and pure and beautiful things ever written.”

Hadelich will immediately follow the Haydn with the violin concerto “Concentric Paths” by British composer Adès, whom the UK Telegraph calls the first major composer of the third millennium. The 47-year-old is a darling of the critics, winning high praise for his operas “Powder Her Face” and “The Tempest,” as well as his chamber and symphonic works. But the complexity of Adès’ music, which Stern describes as full of detail and sometimes hard to play, can leave audiences scratching their heads.

“I think he’s kind of a genius,” Stern said. “He writes incredibly well-crafted music, but it’s not always the easiest, although I would say everybody should be prepared for a thrilling experience. The chaconne and the whirlwind of the last movement are really effective.

“But when you have an advocate for the music, as we have in Augustin Hadelich, who really knows the piece and lives it and believes in it, it becomes a different experience. I think it’s going to surprise people how much they like it.”

Concluding the concert is Mendelssohn’s sunny Symphony No. 4 “Italian.” The work, which Stern calls “a perfect piece,” is always an audience favorite but hasn’t been performed by the Symphony in several years.

“I think this is one of most eclectic programs we’ve had all year,” Stern said. “It’s one of the most interesting and one of the most beautiful.”

8 p.m. June 15 and 16 and 2 p.m. June 17. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $25-$82. 816-471-0400 or kcsymphony.org.

Read the article on The Star website.