Yo-Yo Ma among performers headed to Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is among the big names set to perform at the Kansas City Symphony in its first season at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

The Kansas City Star reported that other marquee names that will be part of the 2011-12 season are pianist Emanuel Ax, violinist Joshua Bell, Kansas City-born opera superstar Joyce DiDonato and guest conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi.

Ma and DiDonato sent video greetings at a news conference Friday expressing their excitement over joining music director Michael Stern and the Symphony in their new state-of-the-art performance home.

“Any season that includes an appearance by Yo-Yo Ma is very special,” Stern said.

Stern’s programs will feature some of the boldest and grandest classics — Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth, Gustav Mahler’s Second, Johannes Brahms’ “German Requiem.” Also part of the mix will be three world premieres, celebrating Kansas City and its fountains, and classics never played by the Symphony.

The Symphony also is going big with its Pops Series next season. Most notably, “Star Trek” actor George Takei will read dramatic narratives during performances of feature scores from great science-fiction fare.

“I always like to push the envelope,” Stern said of his classical selections. “On every program I am conducting, there is either a piece of interesting contemporary music, American music or little known music that deserves wider merit. This is by design. We are only complete musicians if we have that range.

“It is more interesting for us, and more interesting for our listeners. But it would not be possible if the orchestra were not as flexible and virtuosic as it has become, and that is why this season reflects more fully than any other until now why we deserve this great new hall.”

All of the Symphony’s concerts will be played in the Symphony’s state-of-the-art performance home, the 1,600-seat Helzberg Hall.

It was previously announced that the Symphony would help christen the Kauffman Center on the weekend of Sept. 16-18. The festivities will feature performances by tenor Placido Domingo and violinist Itzhak Perlman.

The Symphony’s own season starts a week later with a bang, or more specifically, Igor Stravinsky’s “Fireworks.“

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