Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, who died last year at the age of 87, had one of the most distinctive voices among contemporary composers. His music conveys a “northern” sound, like that of his fellow Finn, Jean Sibelius, but there is an added touch of mysticism.
The Kansas City Symphony conducted by Michael Stern and violinist Anne Akiko Meyers will perform the world premiere of Rautavaara’s “Violin Concerto: Fantasia” March 24-26 at Helzberg Hall. The program also includes music by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen, Maurice Ravel’s gypsy-flavored “Tzigane” and the Symphony No. 2 by Sibelius.
After Nielsen’s charming “Maskarade” overture, Meyers will perform Rautavaara’s concerto, a work she commissioned from the composer — one of the last pieces by Rautavaara. Meyers has written that the Fantasia has the mystical quality that has made Rautavaara’s other music, like his Cantus Arcticus for Birds and Orchestra, so popular with audiences.
The concert is a double-header for Meyers. After the Rautavaara, she’ll perform Ravel’s slinky “Tzigane.” Drawing on the exotic sound of gypsy fiddlers, the work is a challenging, virtuosic showpiece.
In contrast to the Nielsen and Rautavaara, Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 is the romantic expression of the Scandinavian sound. Written shortly after “Finlandia,” many hear in the Sibelius second another statement of Finnish nationalism. For the composer, however, the work was much more personal than political. Sibelius once said that “my second symphony is a confession of the soul.”
And it is a soul-stirring work. Written in sunny Italy where Sibelius was on a retreat paid for by a benefactor, the Symphony No. 2 nevertheless breathes the frosty, invigorating air of Finland. The exhilarating finale has an almost cinematic sweep.
The work was a tremendous success with Finnish audiences when it was first performed. The composer Sulho Ranta said: “There is something about this music — at least for us — that leads us to ecstasy; almost like a shaman with his magic drum.”
Boston Pops & Gershwin
The Boston Pops and George Gershwin. Now there’s a classic American combo.
The Harriman-Jewell Series will present the Boston Pops led by its music director Keith Lockhart in an all-Gershwin concert March 24 at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre.
The venerable American orchestra will be joined by pianist Michael Chertock and vocalists Justin Hopkins and Erica Spyres for a concert of Gershwin’s greatest hits, including “Rhapsody in Blue,” “An American in Paris” and a healthy selection of the composer’s classic songs.
UMKC Opera presents Handel
The opera department of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance beautifully complements Kansas City’s Lyric Opera.
The Lyric does four major productions a year, and the conservatory’s opera department fills in the gaps with lesser-known repertoire, like the baroque masterpieces of George Frideric Handel. The conservatory will present Handel’s “Rodelinda” March 23-26 at White Recital Hall.
Based on a play by Pierre Corneille, the opera tells of the struggles of Rodelinda, the seventh-century queen of the Lombards. Handel’s “opera seria” was a great hit when it was first performed in London in 1725, but quickly fell off the radar until it was rediscovered in the 20th century. Eighteenth-century English musicologist Charles Burney wrote that “Rodelinda contains such a number of capital and pleasing airs, as entitles it to one of the first places among Handel’s dramatic productions.”
Whenever Gamelan Genta Kasturi brings out its golden instruments, a musical magic show is about to begin.
Kansas City’s gamelan ensemble, directed by Patrick Conway, will present its “Spring Concert 2017” on March 25 at the Cherry street campus of Academie Lafayette.
Balinese musicians Ketút Gedé Asnawa, Putu Oka Mardiani, Ni Made Nias Yuniorika and Ni Nyoman Nias Yonitika will join Gamelan Genta Kasturi for traditional gamelan music as well as three contemporary works by Conway. The music will be accompanied by Balinese dancing, both traditional and modern. A hands-on workshop open to the public will be held at 6 p.m. March 23 at Arts Dojo, 3130 Bell St.
7:30 p.m. March 25. Academie Lafayette, 3421 Cherry St. Free. Visit GamelanGentaKasturi.com.
Kansas City Women’s Chorus
The classic World War II poster with the woman flexing her bicep is the inspiration for “We Can Do It,” a concert presented by the Kansas City Women’s Chorus March 24 and 25 at Hangar 1 at the Charles Wheeler Downtown Airport.
Celebrating Women’s History Month, the chorus will honor the trailblazing women who took traditionally male jobs at home and made a vital contribution to the fight against fascism during World War II. The Kansas City Girls’ Choir will take part in the first half of the concert.