For many composers, psychological suffering is like the grain of sand that causes the oyster to produce a pearl of great beauty.
Emerging from a severe case of depression and writer’s block, Sergei Rachmaninoff, with the help of psychologist Nicolai Dahl, wrote the Piano Concerto No. 2, his most popular concerto and a work overflowing with glorious melody.
Behzod Abduraimov, acclaimed pianist and artist-in-residence at Park University’s International Center for Music, will perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Kansas City Symphony March 4-6. Also on the program is “The Enchanted Lake” by Anatol Liadov and Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3.
Rachmaninoff dedicated the Piano Concerto No. 2 to Dahl, who helped him overcome a three-year period of self-doubt and depression brought on by the disastrous reception of his Symphony No. 1 in 1897. In 1900, Rachmaninoff underwent autosuggestive therapy with Dahl and was able to begin composing his concerto. In the same year, he performed the second and third movements publicly. On Nov. 9, 1901, he gave the complete work its premiere.
“When he finished the concerto and premiered it himself in Moscow, it was a big success, getting him out of the hard times in his life,” Abduraimov said. “The second piano concerto is full of emotions, passions and the character of Rachmaninoff. It’s a genius masterpiece and loved by everyone, for sure.”
Abduraimov has been performing the Rachmaninoff Second and other concertos with orchestras around the world, as well as giving solo recitals. In the past year, he has performed in Basel, Switzerland; Paris; Munich; London; Sweden and the Canary Islands. He recently performed in Seattle, Sacramento, New York and Dallas. After his performance with the Kansas City Symphony, he’s off to Chile.
“Life keeps me busy,” he said.
This is also the second year Abduraimov is serving as artist-in-residence at Park University’s International Center for Music, where his close friend and mentor, Stanislav Ioudenitch, is director. As artist-in-residence, he performs two concerts a year that are sponsored by Park — he will appear in a gala concert with Ioudenitch and other Park faculty in May — and also serves as an ambassador for the International Center for Music as he performs around the world.
Abduraimov came to Park in 2007 to study but has yet to graduate. The lack of a degree has hardly affected his extraordinary career, which includes a win at the 2009 London International Piano Competition, two recordings for the Decca record label and a touring schedule to rival any concert pianist in the world.
“I still have some academic classes left to get my degree, but the number of concerts is just increasing,” he said. “One doesn’t need a degree to play, but it’s good to have, and I’m still here, based in Kansas City, and very much involved with Park University, so maybe one day I will finish the degree.”
Next weekend’s concerts will be the third time Abduraimov has performed as soloist with the Kansas City Symphony.
“I really enjoy making music with him,” said Michael Stern, Symphony conductor. “He has a special quality at the piano, and Rachmaninoff, of course, is right in his wheelhouse. He has a natural communicativeness, and his technique is completely comprehensive.”
Before the Rachmaninoff, the concert will open with a gorgeous piece of Russian impressionism, “The Enchanted Lake,” by 19th century composer Liadov. After intermission, the action moves to America. Copland was commissioned to write his Third Symphony by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony, which performed its premiere on Oct. 18, 1946. Composed just after the victorious conclusion of World War II, it reflects an optimistic view of America and its place in the world.
“It’s considered the great American symphony for good reason,” Stern said. “Lenny Bernstein said that the Third Symphony is as much of a monument as the Lincoln Memorial. It’s clear that this symphony is a defining moment in American music and every composer composing in that time and afterward knew it.”
The Harriman-Jewell Series will present Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang on one of its free Discovery Concerts, Saturday at the Folly Theater. She’ll perform music by Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Schubert, Witold Lutoslawski and Richard Strauss.
The 29-year-old Frang may be a discovery here in the States, but she’s already developed a passionate following in Europe. She was 10 when she made her solo debut with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and 12 when she performed with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons.
She’s made several recordings for EMI/Warner which have received considerable praise and awards and she’s a professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music.
It’s about time we discovered her.
▪ 7 p.m. Saturday, Folly Theater, 300 W. 12st St. Free. Go to HJSeries.org to print up to four tickets.
Russian National Orchestra with Yuja Wang
The Russian National Orchestra conducted by its founder and artistic director, Mikhail Pletnev, is on its 25th anniversary United States tour.
Thanks to the Harriman-Jewell Series, Kansas City is on the itinerary. The renowned orchestra will perform Sunday at Helzberg Hall. The appropriately all-Russian program includes works by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Dmitri Shostakovich and Igor Stravinsky.
The concert will open with Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, then Chinese virtuoso Yuja Wang will be the soloist for Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Not as often performed as Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, it’s no less gorgeous. The concert will conclude with Stravinsky’s “The Firebird,” which should sizzle in Helzberg Hall.
Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra
Founded in Gdańsk in 1945, the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra rose from the ashes of World War II to bring art and beauty to a devastated Poland.
The Performing Arts Series of Johnson County Community College will present the orchestra at Yardley Hall Saturday so we can all experience its deeply felt music-making.
The orchestra’s artistic director, Ernst Van Tiel, will conduct three bedrock works by Ludwig Van Beethoven: the “Egmont” Overture, the Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor,” and the Symphony No. 5. The 26-year-old Polish pianist Marcin Koziak will be the soloist for the “Emperor” concerto.
The last time the Friends of Chamber Music presented pianist Alexander Melnikov, in February 2013, Kansas City was hit with 16 inches of snow. Three hundred people still braved the elements to hear him give a memorable recital.
He’s making a return appearance Friday, and one hopes the weather will cooperate so many more will be able to experience this exceptional talent.
Melnikov, a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, is steeped in the great Russian piano tradition. One of the highlights of his recital will be Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87, his 2011 recording of which was named by BBC Music Magazine as one of the top 50 recordings of all time. Melnikov also will perform music by Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms.
Northland Symphony Orchestra
Jim Murray will lead the Northland Symphony Orchestra in a program of sexy Latin music with an emphasis on tango Saturday at Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church. In addition to works by tango legend Astor Piazzolla, there will be music by Joaquin Turina, Alberto Ginastera and Heitor Villa-Lobos.
▪ 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church, 7600 N.W. Barry Road. Free. For more information about the Northland Symphony Orchestra, visit NorthlandSymphony.org.
Royal Ballet in HD: “Carmen”
Georges Bizet’s beloved opera “Carmen” also works brilliantly as a ballet. The Tivoli Cinemas in Westport will present the Royal Ballet’s “Carmen” Sunday in an HD screening.
Choreographed by Cuban ballet star Carlos Acosta, who also dances the role of Don José, it stars Royal Ballet principal dancer Marianela Nuñez in the title role. Martin Yates’ adaptation of Bizet’s score features flamenco musicians and the Royal Opera Chorus.
As if “Carmen” weren’t enough, there are three other ballets on the program: Liam Scarlett’s “Viscera,” Jerome Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun” and George Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux,” created in 1960 and set to what was then a newly discovered fragment from “Swan Lake.”
You can reach freelance classical music writer Patrick Neas at email@example.com.