A tribute to Tiberius Klausner, who shaped Kansas City’s musical culture for more than 60 years | KCUR 89.3
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In 1955, Tiberius Klausner arrived in Kansas City to be concertmaster of the Kansas City Philharmonic. He was 23 years old.
For the next 64 years, Klausner influenced Kansas City culture as a performer, teacher, and community leader.
Kinnor Philharmonic pays tribute to Klausner this month with “L’Dor V’Dor Kinnor,” a celebration of his legacy in Kansas City through the decades. “L’dor v’dor” means “from generation to generation” in Hebrew, while “kinnor” is the modern Hebrew word for violin.
“We wanted to pay tribute to Tiberius Klausner because of his role as a musician in Kansas City and in the Jewish community,” says Christopher Kelts, co-founder and musical director of Kinnor.
The Kinnor Philharmonic performs twice a year, with a summer concert and a New Year’s show. The ensemble is made up of Jewish and non-Jewish musicians, celebrating the traditions of the symphonic repertoire and the diversity of Jewish heritage.
“L’Dor V’Dor Kinnor” is part of the set’s 10th anniversary season.
Klausner grew up in Transylvania (now Romania). When he was very young, he heard a violin played by a Roma musician and was immediately captivated. Less than a year after beginning to play the instrument, Klausner performed his first solo with orchestra at the age of nine.
He studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, the National Conservatory of Music in Paris and the Juilliard School in New York, where he studied with Ivan Galamian. When he joined the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra, he was the nation’s youngest concertmaster.
But Klausner’s personal story is more strained. Her family was displaced during World War II and forced into hiding, until they were liberated by Russian forces. His family escaped communism for Paris, before emigrating to Israel.
Klausner eventually traveled to New York and then to Kansas City, his home base for the rest of his life. He became an American citizen in 1961.
Klausner passed away on October 9, 2019. This concert, however, is not intended as a memorial.
“The goal is to keep living life,” says Kelt, who planned the tribute with input from Klausner’s wife, Carla.
The concert will be violin-centric and thoughtful, says Kelts, but it’s really about Klausner’s devotion to his students and vice versa.
“He loved playing the violin and that love guided him as a teacher,” says Emily Shehi, one of the concert soloists.
In all those years of teaching, it’s hard to say exactly how many students Klausner had, either privately or through the UMKC Conservatory, where he was a music teacher and artist. in residence for 32 years.
The concert features three Klausner students: Shehi, Dani Hoisington and Jennifer Mitchell. “Three different people who were influenced by Tibor’s violin, all choosing different paths in their lives, but the violin is still an important aspect,” says Kelts.
“From an early age, I heard many stories about Mr. Klausner because he taught or influenced so many musicians around me,” Shehi explains. “So when I went to study with him, I knew I was in the presence of someone very special.”
Shehi is currently a master’s candidate at Yale University, where she studies with Augustin Hadelich.
Hoisington pursued the violin through to his master’s degree and continues to play while establishing a career in cybersecurity. He studied with Klausner as a high school student and during college breaks.
“He was a kind but firm teacher, never settling for anything less than my best,” Hoisington recalled.
Klausner also went above and beyond for his students, Hoisington says. “More than anything, I remember his warmth and sincere concern for me and all of his students.”
Mitchell, now retired, taught orchestra at Shawnee Mission Public Schools and serves on the outreach committee of the Kansas City Civic Orchestra.
Mitchell began studying with Klausner when she was in 9th grade, continuing at the UMKC Conservatory and into adulthood.
“Whether teaching my students or practicing alone at home, I constantly hear Mr. K’s voice (with the big accent) telling me how best to play a difficult passage,” says Mitchell.
Mitchell and Hoisinton perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Double Violin Concerto in D Minor BWV 1043” and Shehi performs Jean Sibelius’ “Violin Concerto, Op. 47”. The concert also includes Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, a nod to Klausner’s affinity for Barber’s string quartet.
In addition to the soloists, some of Klausner’s students perform in the orchestra, and many more will be present for the concert.
“Because he was from a completely different generation, I loved hearing all the stories he told about his life, especially the memories of his teacher, Galamian,” Shehi says. “It was like a glimpse of another era that I hope to keep alive and pass on to future generations.”
Along with his long orchestral tenures and appearances in ensembles around the world, Klausner was a dedicated chamber musician, collaborating with many different artists over the years and performing at festivals across the country. He was also a longtime active member of Congregation Beth Shalom.
“His career looks like a Venn diagram,” says Kelts. “There’s Tibor in the middle and all of these things end up touching.”
The Kinnor Philharmonic performs Sunday, June 12, 2022 at 3 p.m. at the White Theater in Greater Kansas City Jewish Community Center. For more information and to listen to recordings by Tiberius Klausner, visit tiberiusklausner.com. Find out more about visiting the Kinnor Philharmonic Orchestra kinnorphilharmic.org.