Violinist Maxim Vengerov and pianist Mitsuko Uchida are considered two of the finest musicians in the world. The Harriman-Jewell Series presented both artists early in their careers in memorable concerts. But those concerts were 20 years ago, and since then, Vengerov has focused more on conducting than giving violin recitals and Uchida has kept her concertizing mostly to Europe.
So, it’s good news for fans of both musicians that the Harriman-Jewell Series is bringing back Vengerov for a recital on Jan. 20 and Uchida on Feb. 16. Both concerts will be in Kansas City’s historic recital hall, the Folly Theater.
“Vengerov gave his American recital debut with us in 1993, and then we quickly reengaged him and brought him back in 1996,” said Clark Morris, artistic and executive director of the Harriman-Jewell Series. “I remember talking to Richard Harriman afterward, and both of us were astounded at how incredible he was. Of course, he was every bit as astonishing when he came back in 1996.”
Vengerov, 43, is noted for his ability to play a wide variety of music, and he’ll play a diverse program for his Kansas City recital, including music by Johannes Brahms, Maurice Ravel and dazzling showpieces by Niccolò Paganini.
“As a presenter, I’ve been so anxious to bring Vengerov back,” Morris said. “It’s been long enough ago that a lot of our audience may not remember him or may not have seen him back in the early ’90s. I think they’re really going to be blown away.”
Uchida, 69, first appeared on the Harriman-Jewell Series in 1989 and the last time in 1992, so she’s another artist many in Kansas City have been waiting decades to hear again. Born in Japan, Uchida moved to Austria with her diplomat parents when she was 12. It was in Austria that she absorbed the great Austrian musical tradition. In Vienna, she studied with Maria Curcio, who was Arthur Schnabel’s last student. Schnabel, in turn, studied with Theodor Leschetizky, who studied with Carl Czerny, who studied with Ludwig van Beethoven, putting Uchida directly in the Beethoven lineage.
“Her ability to do particularly poetic literature like (Wolfgang Amadeus) Mozart and (Franz) Schubert is just jaw-dropping,” Morris said. “Mitsuko is such a deep and phenomenal musician. Since we had her here the last time, she really hasn’t done much work in the United States. She comes to New York and has been the artistic director of the Marlboro Festival, but it’s been very difficult to see a piano recital by her in the United States because she concentrates mostly on Europe.”
The Negro Spiritual is one of America’s great contributions to world culture, and the American Spiritual Ensemble preserves and honors that legacy with its heart-felt performances. This group of classically trained singers will bring the inspiring sounds of the Negro Spiritual to the Folly Theater on Jan. 13.
Dance aficionados can also look forward to the return of the Dance Theatre of Harlem on Feb. 9 at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre. The group was founded after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to provide Harlem’s children with an artistic outlet for their energy and creativity. A returning favorite on the Harriman-Jewell Series, the Dance Theatre of Harlem will be making its fourth appearance.
“The company went through a bit of a challenging time in the early 2000s, when they were keeping their school alive, but had to slim down their main dance company,” Morris said. “But they’ve built that company back up, and now they’re back to their former glory and doing a lot of touring, including, most recently, in Eastern Europe. They’re one of the world’s great dance companies.”
For tickets or more information, call 816-415-5025 or visit www.hjseries.org.