Kansas City Symphony opened the 2013 season with a world renowned violinist, Stefan Jackiw, who returned to perform with KCS Oct. 4-6 where he playted Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor Op. 64.
Jackiw, one of his generation’s most significant artists, completed his bachelor’s degree at Harvard and went on to the New England Conservatory where he earned his Artist Diploma. According to his biography furnished to the Symphony, he is currently 28 years old.
“Jackiw is recognized as captivating audiences with playing that combines poetry and purity with an impeccable technique,” his biography said. “Hailed for “talent that’s off the scale” (Washington Post), and playing that is “striking for its intelligence and sensitivity” (Boston Globe), Jackiw has appeared as soloist with the orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco, among others, and has collaborated with renowned conductors such as Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Ludovic Morlot, Andris Nelsons, Hannu Lintu, Marin Alsop, Andrew Davis, Mikhail Pletnev, Gerard Schwarz and Yuri Temirkanov. His solo performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra at Australia’s Sydney Opera House in March of 2011 was seen live on YouTube by more than 30 million people worldwide.”
The weekend performances mark the second time Jackiw performs with the Kansas City Symphony.
“This will be my second time with the Kansas City Symphony. The last time I played with them, I was struck by the passion and seriousness with which they approach their music making. So, I was thrilled to be asked back,” he said.
Jackiw also told the talk-back audience prior to the concert that his last visit to Kansas City marked the Kansas City Symphony’s farewell performance to the Lyric Theater, which had been its home before completion of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. He said that the Kauffman Center was mostly finished but had not been approved for crowds at that time. He said practices were in the new Helzberg Hall, but the performances were still at the Lyric.
“I’ve played the Mendelssohn (piece) more than any other piece in my repertoire. I don’t know the exact number of times, but I’d guess over fifty,” Jackiw said of the featured piece for the Kansas City Symphony weekend.
Jackiw said that he thinks the Mendelssohn piece is the most perfectly crafted violin concerto. He said that the piece is simultaneously classical and revolutionary.
“Mendelssohn took a standard three-movement form and turned it on its head. There is no lengthy orchestral introduction, the cadenza appears in the middle of the first movement rather than the end, and all three movements run into each other with no pause, creating a streamlined sense of inevitability. Like much of Mendelssohn’s music, the violin concerto if filled with. Like much of Mendelssohn’s music, the violin concerto is filled with a restless, searching quality, and also with a childlike sweetness and innocence,”
Jackiw’s performance highlighted the evening’s selections. The season commenced with “The Star Spangled Banner” and then followed with a short tribute piece, “Nimrod,” from Elgar’s Enigma Variations prior to the Dvorak piece.
Conductor Michael Stern explained that the tribute honored Russell Patterson who died earlier in the week. Patterson, Conductor Emeritus for the Kansas City Symphony who served as Kansas City Symphony’s musical director from its birth in 1982 until 1986. Patterson died at the age of 85.
“ The Kansas City Symphony owes a debt of gratitude to Patterson for his passion and dedication to arts in this community,” a program insert claimed.
After the opening pieces, the scheduled performance began with Dvorak’s Scherzo Capriccioso, op. 66. After that, the featured guest entertained with Concerto in E Minor for Violin and Orchestra, opus 64.
Stern said that some pieces come quickly to a composer and other times they agonize of a composition. The Dvorak piece came quickly to him. It’s like it was effortless. It’s classic Dvorak. He said the piece has beautiful construction. Stern added that the piece was composed very soon after the birth of Dvorak’s son.
The featured guest artist followed to end the first half of the concert. Stephan Jackiw entered to loud applause with his 300 year-old Italian-made violin to perform Concerto in E Minor for Violin and Orchestra, opus 64.
Jackiw said he particularly liked to perform the Mendelssohn because of its beauty and the nature of the piece. He said it was different because it introduced the violin after the first measure of music, and most pieces wait further before the major instrument begins. He further said he learned this piece when he was 12. He said it has a simplistic beauty while also being very complex and turbulent.
“I find great concertos that require the utmost purity to be more difficult than flashy showpieces. Pieces I love the most are often the most difficult to play, because I am so picky about how I want to play them,” he said. “I began playing the violin when I was four, and already by age eight, I knew that I loved playing music more than anything else.”
Upon completion of his piece, Jackiw bowed, exited and came back for more standing ovations, which led to an encore piece prior to intermission.
After intermission, Stern returned to the platform to conduct a Rachmaninoff;s, Symphonic Dances, op.45. Stern explained prior to the concert that this particular piece came toward the end of Rachmaninoff’s life while he was living in America. He said the use of the American saxophone in the first movement displayed Rachmaninoff’s life in America. He said the composer left Russia for America, but still remained connected to his prior Russian homeland and musical background.
Standing ovations set the mood for the evening. All three pieces and the encore brought the audience to its feet.