By Patrick Neas
For its 2018–2019 season, the Harriman-Jewell Series presents three world-class orchestras in what Clark Morris, the Series’ executive and artistic director, calls “the whole package.” Not only are the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Mariinsky Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony appearing in Kansas City with their music directors, but each concert will also feature an internationally acclaimed soloist.
“It’s one of the things that makes the whole package so attractive,” Morris said. “When we think about booking an ensemble, like The Philadelphia Orchestra, we’re not just interested in the orchestra, but who the conductor is going to be. So often when an orchestra tours, it’s not the main music director that tours with the orchestra because their time is so precious. So when we can bring the actual conductor, that’s terrific and wonderful.
But we’re also interested in bringing a great soloist. That just puts a sheen on the entire package.”
On September 26, the Philadelphia Orchestra will perform in Helzberg Hall conducted by its young superstar music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. But to put that “sheen” on the package is violinist Lisa Batiashvili, who will be the soloist for Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.
The 29-year-old is one of the most acclaimed musicians of her generation. At 16, she won the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition in Helsinki. She was a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist and an artist-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic and the NDR Symphony Orchestra. The Times of London has described Batiashvili as “the complete musician.”
“She’s young and has accomplished a lot,” Morris said. “She was born in the Republic of Georgia. Her father is a violinist and her mother is a concert pianist, so from the age of three or four, she was receiving musical lessons from her father. She’s not doing a lot of recital work because she is so busy with these orchestra tours, but she’s never been to Kansas City, so this will be a great chance for us to hear her.”
The Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is one of the most popular violin concertos in the repertoire. When it was first performed on December 4, 1881, in Vienna, it received mixed reviews. The critic Eduard Hanslick wrote that “the violin was not played but beaten black and blue.” It didn’t take long, however, for the concerto to establish itself as an all-time favorite with both performers and audiences.
“It’s very passionate and exciting,” Morris said. “I always look forward to an opportunity to hear a great orchestra and a great soloist do that concerto.”
On October 29, Valery Gergiev will conduct the Mariinsky Orchestra in Helzberg Hall. Adding luster to the concert will be pianist Denis Matsuev, who will perform Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Matsuev, whom The New York Times praised for his “athletic virtuosity and steely power,” gave a solo recital on the Harriman-Jewell Series in 2016.
“Denis is a powerful Russian pianist in the grand Russian tradition,” Morris said. “He won the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1998 and has had a fantastic career. I think that anyone who saw him in recital on our Series will absolutely want to see him again, particularly paired with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra. That’s going to be a powerhouse of artistic presence on the same stage in Kansas City.”
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, which Rachmaninoff himself performed at its premiere in Baltimore in 1934, is the ultimate in musical romanticism. The 18th variation is especially swoon-worthy. It’s one of those works that transcends the world of high culture, having made its way into the TV show “The Good Wife” and the film “Somewhere in Time.”
“It’s another one of my favorites,” Morris said. “It’s one of those pieces of music that will sound familiar to people. It has a melody that sticks in your head and is probably a part of your soul. It will be a joy for people to get to hear it.”
For tickets and more information, call 816.415.5025 or visit www.hjseries.org.
Harriman-Jewell Series Fall 2019 Events
Sept. 22: Alyson Cambridge, soprano (Free Discovery Concert. Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St.)
Sept. 26: Philadelphia Orchestra led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin; Lisa Batiashvili, violinist (Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway, Blvd.)
Oct. 13: Nathan Lee, pianist (Free Discovery Concert. Unity Temple on The Plaza, 707 W. 47th St.)
Oct. 29: Mariinsky Orchestra led by Valery Gergiev; Denis Matsuev, pianist (Helzberg Hall)
Nov. 3: Ballet Folklórico de México (Helzberg Hall)
Nov. 9: Bella Hristova, violinist with the Youth Symphony of Kansas City (Free Discovery Concert. Helzberg Hall)
Dec. 13: Joyce DiDonato and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, mezzo-soprano and pianist in duo recital (Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St.)