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KC STAR: KC Symphony season opens with farewell show from former concertmaster Noah Geller

Noah Geller. photo: Todd Rosenberg

BY PATRICK NEAS | Special to The Star

September 08, 2018 07:00 AM

It won’t be the same not seeing concertmaster Noah Geller stride to the middle of the stage to tune up the orchestra before every Kansas City Symphony concert. His beaming face let you know you were in for something good.

At the end of last season, Geller announced that he had taken the position of concertmaster with the Seattle Symphony effective immediately.

But his many fans will get to hear Geller give a farewell performance of sorts when he joins the Kansas City Symphony to perform Beethoven’s Triple Concerto on its season opening concert Sept. 14-16 at Helzberg Hall. Also on the program is music by Rachmaninoff and Aaron Jay Kernis.

During the six years he spent in Kansas City, Geller became a familiar and beloved fixture in town. The 6-foot-4 violinist could be easily spotted when he was out and about in the community, and his warmth and friendliness endeared him to many Kansas Citians.

“I couldn’t believe the way the audience supported me,” Geller said. “I would go out for dinner, and sometimes I’d get a glass of wine sent over, or people would come up and tell me how appreciative they are of how the symphony’s doing, how great the orchestra sounds. And that really meant a lot to me. I certainly enjoyed getting that feedback from people.”

The Juilliard graduate and former member of the first violin section of the Philadelphia Orchestra is on an upward trajectory.

But Kansas City wasn’t just a stepping stone for Geller. He says the past six years have been some of the happiest years of his life.

“It’s going to be an emotional week for me, for sure,” Geller said. “Kansas City was a really, really special group of people. From day one, the staff and the management of the Kansas City Symphony had a special sense for how to be hospitable. I’m going to miss the sunshine in the wintertime. I’m going to miss my house. I’m going to miss Helzberg Hall.”

Geller will say farewell to Kansas City as he performs Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with two of his best friends, cellist Mark Gibbs and pianist Sean Chen.

“It’s going to be really nice to share the stage with those guys,” Geller said. “Mark is a great friend with a great sense of humor. He’s so much fun to be around. And Sean is a really special addition to the Kansas City music scene. He’s the husband of Betty Chen, one of our violinists, and he’s a world-class pianist. There’s nobody I’d rather share the stage with than those guys for my last outpouring of music for the Kansas City community.”

Beethoven wrote his Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano for his pupil, Archduke Rudolf of Austria, who was an accomplished pianist. Although written for a pianist, Geller says that the cello is, in many ways, the most important instrument of the concerto.

“It’s unique in that the cello is the leading instrument,” Geller said. “In each movement, you’ll hear thematic material introduced first by the cello, then we get to join in later. But, really, the cello is leader of the group. The jewel of the piece is the third movement. It’s one of those pieces that you’ll be whistling on your way to the car.”

Also on the program is Rachmaninoff’s popular Symphonic Dances and New Era Dance by Aaron Jay Kernis, a fitting piece to celebrate this new era in Geller’s career.

“When I go into an audition I prepare myself fully to not have any expectation of the outcome because more than likely you’re not going to win,” Geller said. “So when it turns out that you win, it’s like, wow, you’ve got to pick up your whole life and move. There’s a certain amount of sadness in leaving such a beautiful place like Kansas City. But I really hope that I can continue to do some work here.”

8 p.m. Sept. 14 and 15 and 2 p.m. Sept. 16. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $25-$85. 816-471-0400 or www.kcsymphony.org

Read the article on The Star website.