Kansas City Symphony mines emotional depths in season-opening concert

Stefan Jackiw
Kansas City Star

Friday night at Helzberg Hall, the Kansas City Symphony opened its Classical Series with defiant bravura, emotionally laden programming, and an exceptional soloist in violinist Stefan Jackiw. The ensemble mightily impressed the audience, with applause punctuating the performance and a hearty, prolonged ovation at its conclusion.
Music director Michael Stern conducted, beginning the season by leading the orchestra and audience in a vigorous performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The final movement was a full-fledged celebration, energy sustained and extrapolated into wild flourishes: timpani rumbling, a trio of crash cymbals, and the ensemble exuberant. Meditative moments on the folk melody were brief, but polished, leading into a finale of heightened enthusiasm.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concert in D Major featured Jackiw in a commanding role. Korngold, who emigrated from Vienna, was a successful Hollywood film composer in the 1930s and ’40s. His themes and timbral choices trigger intense associations that invite a narrative. Jackiw navigated technical demands and character changes with a lively presence, sturdy, nuanced harmonics, ferocious runs, evocative tone quality and even a twangy, bow-rattling fiddling excursion.
The orchestra maintained a responsive interplay with Jackiw, allowing space during transition points and reveling in the cinematic grandeur.
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