To commence its 30th anniversary season, the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra gave a celebratory performance in Helzberg Hall on Saturday, with the featured soloists from Park University’s International Center for Music representing not only the quality of performance in Kansas City but the future of it, too.
The attentive audience (with a nice mix of decades represented) was a testament to the relevance and staying power of the ensemble. With a roster mostly comprised of Kansas City Symphony members, the quality of performance is consistently high, while the chamber approach allows for individualized expression.
Music director Bruce Sorrell selected Ludwig van Beethoven’s overture to “Fidelio” to start, teetering between forceful heroism and self-contained sensitivity and playing up the drama with full stops and whispering pianissimos.
The concert featured Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto,” his concerto for violin, cello and piano in C major. The soloists are faculty at the International Center for Music : Ben Sayevich (violin, who also served as the chamber orchestra’s first concertmaster), Daniel Veis (cello) and Lolita Lisovskaya-Sayevich (piano).
Sayevich and Veis exuded the ease of the virtuoso, though Lisovskaya-Sayevich gave a more commanding performance. The interplay between the soloists flowed nicely, most of the time, and Sorrell kept the orchestra comfortably underneath. Starting with Veis’ opening statement, this was a demure reading and it was the restraint and commitment to the quiet, yet technically demanding, moments that were most impressive, despite some uncentered pitches and harried exchanges.
The rest of the concert displayed a series of virtuosic showpieces by some of the International Center for Music’s top students.
Violinist Laurel Gagnon played Henryk Wieniawski’s “Polonaise Brillante No.2” with nimble command, centered double stops and graceful, springy portamento, though phrase endings were not aligned with the orchestra (though the orchestra did her no favors here, with too many tuning issues).
Cellist Dilshod Narzillaev connected better with the ensemble, stretching the rubato in Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Pezzo Capriccioso” and bursting forth through demanding passages.
Jihong Li performed a beautifully defined and sculpted melody on Frederic Chopin’s “Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante,” then alternated the character of the line between agitated and free-flowing. The orchestra was somewhat minimally used but offered color and support, creating a balanced and exciting whole, with an especially effective transitional fanfare in the horns and subtle underscoring from the violins.
The three soloists came onstage to give their final bows together under the audience’s ovation, their youth belied by endearingly awkward stage presence.