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TICKLE, FIDDLE AND TAP: The KC spring culture-feast begins

The Kansas City Symphony has an intriguing array of soloists lined up for the spring, from superstars to newcomers, and the first one I’m looking forward to is Benedetto Lupo, a marvelous Italian pianist with a substantial European career who only recently has begun to attract due notice on these shores. Odd, considering that his career was initially kick-started with a bronze medal at the 1989 Van Cliburn Competition, followed by a New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall in 1992. In any event he’s made sort of an American come-back in the last couple of years: He’ll appear here January 15th through the 17th at the Lyric Theatre with Quebec-born guest conductor Bernard Labadie, whose baton skills are known to Kansas City audiences.

Lupo has been greeted with unstinting critical praise for his recent U.S. performances. “Lupo’s crystalline yet emphatic performance helped draw out the piece’s deeper meaning,” wrote Alex Ross in The New Yorker of a performance of the same piece the pianist will play here, Mozart’s K. 456 concerto, “Mozart’s own underlying conflict between the imperatives of festive public pomp (as seen in the opening theme’s martial strut) and the inner compulsions of personal expression (which Lupo brought out with dark-hued vehemence).” John von Rhein wrote in the Chicago Tribune of a performance with Labadie (again, of the same piece) that Lupo’s pianism was “never less than gracious, the musical sensibility behind it generous and true. Labadie’s supportive accompaniment had a similar feeling of naturalness, as if he and Lupo were breathing the same pure Mozartean air.” And Scott Cantrell, writing in 2007 in the Dallas Morning News of a Fort Worth recital that included Schumann’sKreisleriana, called Lupo a musician of “depth and warmth” who “savored, and subtly underlined, the music’s harmonic unpredictability.”

Labadie, a known specialist in the music of the Baroque and Classical periods, will also lead the orchestra in Mozart’s Symphony No. 39 and Franz Schubert’s Mozart-inspired Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major. For information and tickets, call 816-471-0400 or go to kcsymphony.org.



* Man, I miss Gregory Hines, who died of cancer in 2003 at a youthful 57. If ever there was a mega-talent, he was one: dancer, actor, singer—an almost-too-big-for-Broadway showman. Who can forget The Cotton Club, or the breathtaking dance sequences with Mikhail Baryshnikov in the 1985 movie White Nights? Or (a favorite of mine) his surprising, quiet presence in Waiting to Exhale? Among all of his talents, though, it was tap that raised the New York-born Hines above “mere” brilliance into something resembling pure genius. On January 16th at Yardley Hall, the Performing Arts Series of Johnson County Community College presents Thank You, Gregory: A Tribute to the Legends of Tap, in which eight world-class tappers pay tribute to Hines and other legends of tap. One of Kansas City’s own master tappers, Ronald McFadden, will lead an Artist Insight discussion an hour before the show. For tickets, call 913-469-4445 or go to jccc.edu.

* Next up with the Kansas City Symphony is the dazzling Gil Shaham, one of the most significant violin talents of our time, who has been praised by Strings Magazine for his virtuosity and his “innate musicality and beautiful, expressive tone, which can glow like bronze and shimmer like gold.” Winner of an Avery Fisher Career Grant, multiple Grammy Awards and the 2008 Avery Fisher Prize, Shaham presents not one but two violin concertos, by Barber and Prokofiev (the Second), both of which were part of an outpouring of great violin concertos during the 1930s—a repertoire that Shaham has highlighted recently through performances of works by Barber, Berg, Stravinsky, Bartók, Prokofiev, and others. The program, conducted by music director Michael Stern,also includes Stravinsky’s Baroque-inspired Pulcinella and the bubbling Symphony No. 1 by the precocious 19-year-old Shostakovich. The concerts are January 22nd through the 24th at the Lyric Theatre. For information and tickets, see the contacts in the entry at the top.


Paul Horsley, Performing Arts Editor 

Paul studied piano and musicology at WSU and Cornell University. He also earned a degree in journalism, because writing about the arts in order to inspire others to partake in them was always his first love. After earning a PhD from Cornell, he became Program Annotator for the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he learned firsthand the challenges that non profits face. He moved to KC to join the then-thriving Arts Desk at The Kansas City Star, but in 2008 he happily accepted a post at The Independent. Paul contributes to national publications, including Dance Magazine, Symphony, Musical America, and The New York Times, and has conducted scholarly research in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic (the latter on a Fulbright Fellowship). He also taught musicology at Cornell, LSU and Park University.



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