One is Silver, the Other Gold

Michael Stern, music director, Kansas City Symphony, presents his farewell concert June 21-23 after leading several concerts this winter and spring. (Kansas City Symphony)

Kansas City’s classical music and dance organizations greet new friends and bid farewells in 2024 – A Roundup

Kansas City’s classical music and dance scene celebrates new and familiar faces this year. Commissions and collaborations are also prominent, with partnerships of popular ensembles, and performing arts organizations return to iconic works they haven’t presented in over a decade.

In honor of Michael Stern’s departure as music director of the Kansas City Symphony, there is an exciting array of concerts featuring some of his favorite works throughout the coming months, as well as some new voices. Under Stern’s leadership, the orchestra’s ability has grown impressively. Stern ends his 19-year tenure in June, but before that, there is a wealth of music to enjoy.

Check out this lineup: Stern’s friend and hometown hero Joyce DiDonato joins the symphony for “Journey Home” Jan. 12-14 in Helzberg Hall, featuring music inspired by travel, with works by Chen Yi and Zhou Long, Gustav Mahler, Joel Thompson and Charles Ives, and finishing with the effervescent overture from Johann Strauss, Jr.’s “Die Fledermaus.”

Kansas City Symphony performs Xavier Foley’s “Soul Bass,” with Foley as soloist, April 5-7. (Kansas City Symphony)

He will also welcome Kansas City newcomer, bassist Xavier Foley, to Helzberg Hall. Foley moved to Kansas City mid-pandemic, making the city his home base for an international career as one of the country’s most astounding bassists and composers. Kansas City Symphony performs Foley’s “Soul Bass” April 5-7 with Foley as soloist, amidst a program which features the world premiere of a new work by Angel Lam, two colorful works by Maurice Ravel, including the audience favorite “Bolero,” and Benjamin Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes,” which the symphony recorded on the 2010 Grammy Award-winning album “Britten’s Orchestra.”

But that’s not all. Stern leads Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony June 14-16 and then presents his farewell concert June 21-23.

This spring, we’ll also see KCS music director designate Matthias Pintscher ahead of his official appointment. From March 22-24, he’ll lead the orchestra with symphonic dances from Leonard Bernstein and Sergei Rachmaninoff and a new work by British composer Errollynn Wallen, co-commissioned by KCS. Though she’s written a variety of works (Wallen has been listed as one of the most-performed living composers in the world, according to Bachtrack), this is her first violin concerto and will feature violinist Philippe Quint. www.kcsymphony.org

Though KCS happenings dominate the season, there’s plenty to enjoy in other genres.

Kansas City Ballet Dancers Amaya Rodriguez, Kaleena Burks and Taryn Mejia strike a pose from George Balanchine’s “Jewels,” coming to the Kauffman Center May 10-12 and 17-19. (photo by Kenny Johnson)

Kansas City Ballet presents Devon Carney’s “Peter Pan” Feb. 16-18 and Feb. 22-25, during his 10th season as artistic director of the company. The work premiered in 2018, one of Carney’s earlier works for the company. With an original score and playful approach, it’s a magic spectacle fitting right in with the family-friendly Nutcracker niche.

KCB closes their season with another spectacle, George Balanchine’s “Jewels.” Regular balletgoers have seen the company perform some of this sparkling three-movement work through the years, but this may be the first time — or the first time in decades — we’ve had the opportunity to experience the complete work with Kansas City Ballet, May 10-12 and 17-19 at the Kauffman Center. www.kcballet.org

The vocal scene also offers highly anticipated events. Te Deum Antiqua collaborates with Bach Aria Soloists for “Salve Mundi Salutare,” featuring three very different sacred works by Britten, J.S. Bach and Dietrich Buxtehude Feb. 17 at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village and Feb. 18 at Grace Episcopal Church in Topeka, Kansas. Elisa Bickers performs with the chorus on organ for Britten’s magnificent and uplifting Festival Te Deum. www.te-deum.org and www.bachariasoloists.com

Bickers is the organist at Village Presbyterian Church, whose Richards, Fowkes & Co. organ was completed in 2017. The church’s music ministry has found many ways to utilize this fine instrument. That includes a performance of Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem by the Grammy Award-winning Kansas City Chorale March 8. They last performed the richly textured work for chorus and organ in 2012. www.kcchorale.org

Lyric Opera of Kansas City performs Charles Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” March 9, 15 and 17, seen here in a production by the San Diego Opera. (San Diego Opera / photo by Karli Cadel)

Lyric Opera of Kansas City presents Charles Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” March 9, 15 and 17 at the Kauffman Center. It was last performed by the company 20 years ago. This new production — with lush sets, period costumes and full orchestra — premiered with San Diego Opera last year under the direction of Matthew Ozawa. The San Diego Union-Tribune described it as “French grand opera at its finest.” Christopher Allen leads the orchestra in Kansas City, which features tenor Ben Bliss as Roméo and soprano Andriana Chuchman as Juliette. www.kcopera.org

Harriman-Jewel Series presents pianist Emanuel Ax April 7. (Harriman-Jewell Series)

International artist and perennial Kansas City favorite Emanuel Ax performs a recital of solo works for the Harriman-Jewell Series April 7 at the Folly Theater. The program includes works by two boundary pushing composers — Ludwig van Beethoven and Arnold Schoenberg — which contrast their early and mid-career styles. Just as Beethoven transmuted classical style into the Romantic era, Schoenberg bridged Romanticism into the modern aesthetic. www.hjseries.org

The artistic directors of Friends of Chamber Music continue their mission to build community and unique programs for their Kansas City audience April 26 at the Folly Theater. In “Spark of Genius,” cellist Dmitri Atapine and pianist Hyeyeon Park bring some of their international colleagues to town for the performance and community outreach, featuring three longform works from masters of the Romantic era: Franz Schubert, Josef Suk and Felix Mendelssohn. www.chambermusic.org

Libby Hanssen

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen covers the performing arts in Kansas City. She is the author of States of Swing: The History of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, 2003-2023. Along with degrees in trombone performance, Libby was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. She maintains the culture bog "Proust Eats a Sandwich."

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