The Kansas City Symphony will laugh in the face of winter when it performs Igor Stravinsky’s ballet about the cackling puppet Pétrouchka on Friday, Saturday and Jan. 17 at Helzberg Hall.
Also on the program is Leonard Bernstein’s “Fancy Free” and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.
The concert will open with “Fancy Free.” The joyful ballet had its premiere in 1944 at the height of World War II. Bernstein’s music perfectly captured the exploits of three high-spirited sailors on leave in New York City. The ballet served as inspiration for the popular musical “On the Town.”
Japanese violin virtuoso Midori will take the stage for Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. When the work was first performed by violinist Adolph Brodsky in Vienna in 1881, music critic Eduard Hanslick wrote that the concerto “brought us face to face with the revolting thought that music can exist which stinks to the ear.” He added “the violin was not played but beaten black and blue.”
Nevermind Hanslick. The work overflows with some of Tchaikovsky’s most passionate melodies and has become an audience favorite. It was featured in a recent episode of the Amazon Prime series “Mozart in the Jungle.”
Russian National Ballet
Russian classical ballet has its roots in the Czarist era, but even after the Bolshevik Revolution, which bulldozed cathedrals and forced artists to create socialist realist claptrap, the communists couldn’t bring themselves to destroy such a grand, beautiful art form.
In fact, the Soviet composer Sergei Prokofiev wrote two ballets that are very much in the Russian classical ballet tradition: “Romeo and Juliet” and “Cinderella.”
The Harriman-Jewell Series will present the Russian National Ballet’s production of “Cinderella” on Thursday at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre.
“Cinderella,” first performed by the Bolshoi Ballet in November 1945, is a fairy tale ballet much in the tradition of Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty.” There are very few ballet companies in the world that do this sort of thing better than the Russian National Ballet.
The company of 50 dancers has become a mainstay of the Harriman-Jewell Series, and for good reason. The ensemble has this Russian repertoire in their souls and they always put on a great show that satisfies musically and visually.
The program the Ying Quartet will perform Saturday at the Folly is not for wimps. The music is not atonal, unlistenable music, but it is compelling, deeply emotional and profoundly thoughtful.
The concert, presented by the Friends of Chamber Music, will begin with Five Pieces for String Quartet by Erwin Schulhoff, whose career began as a boy studying with Antonin Dvorak and ended in the Wülzburg concentration camp in Bavaria, where he died in 1942.
It’s easy to see why the Nazis hated this idiosyncratic composer. Not only was Schulhoff a Jew, but his music embraced jazz and, in his later works, radical leftist politics. His Five Pieces for String Quartet, however, were written in 1924 before the composer became politicized. It’s intriguing music that combines elements of a Baroque dance suite and techniques of the New Viennese School.
The Schulhoff will be followed by the String Quartet No. 1 by the Czech composer Leos Janacek. The quartet is also known as the Kreutzer Sonata, after the Leo Tolstoy novella that inspired it.
“I was imagining a poor woman, tormented and run down, just like the one the Russian writer Tolstoy describes in his Kreutzer Sonata,” Janacek wrote to a friend.
Concluding the concert is one of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Razumovsky pieces, String Quartet No. 7, Op. 59, No. 1. The first of three quartets commissioned by the Russian ambassador to Vienna, Andrey Razumovsky, it’s a longish work, about 40 minutes, but it holds the attention of listeners with emotional melodies and majestic passages. The work concludes with a Russian theme, which must have pleased Count Razumovsky.
You can reach Patrick Neas at email@example.com.