Violinist Sarah Chang is one of the greatest artists in classical music today.
Winner of an Avery Fisher Career Grant followed by the Avery Fisher Prize in 1999, Chang became the youngest inductee to-date in Hollywood Bowl’s Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2005, Yale University dedicated a chair in Sprague Hall in Sarah Chang’s name. In 2012 Harvard University gave her the Distinguished Leadership in the Arts Award.
The Korean-American musician, who has made 20 recordings for EMI Classics, has served as a U.S. Cultural Ambassador and was a torch bearer in the 2004 Olympic Games.
Chang, who was named to Newsweek magazine’s list of 20 Powerful Women in 2006, has had a major career for more than a quarter century. So it comes as a surprise to learn that the Philadelphia native is only 36 years old.
“She’s been in the spotlight and on the major stages of the world since she was 9 years old,” said Marcelo Lehninger, Grand Rapids Symphony Music Director.
Since her debut with the New York Philharmonic just before her ninth birthday followed by an appearance with the Philadelphia Orchestra soon after, Chang has appeared with nearly every major orchestra and almost every important classical music festival throughout the world.
In 2011, she was St. Cecilia Music Center’s Great Artist, its second youngest Great Artist to date.
Chang returns to Grand Rapids for the first time since then to open the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2017-18 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series. Her return to DeVos Hall for the first time in 12 years is largely due to her long relationship with Grand Rapids Symphony Music Director Marcelo Lehninger.
“She’s a wonderful violinist and a great friend of mine,” Lehninger said. “She’s a fun and bubbly and a great personality.”
“And, boy, can she play that instrument!” he added.
Sarah Chang will perform the Suite from West Side Story for Violin and Orchestra, arranged especially for Chang by film composer David Newman from Leonard Bernstein’s well-known Broadway musical.
Lehninger, who was appointed Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony in June 2016, will make his first season-opening appearance with the orchestra on Friday and Saturday, September 15-16.
The concert includes Ravel’s Bolero, an all-time audience favorite. Featured prominently in the 1979 film “10” starring Dudley Moore and Bo Derek, the piece that’s focused almost entirely on orchestral color has become Ravel’s most popular work with audiences.
Lehninger also will conduct the Grand Rapids Symphony in Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. Premiered in 1941, it’s Rachmaninoff’s final composition before his death two years later. All three of its movements pay homage to Rachmaninoff’s earlier work, offering a romantic remembrance of the composer’s beloved homeland in Russia, which had been obliterated by the Soviet Union.
The Grand Rapids Symphony opens its 88th season with Ozark Traveler by Michigan composer Jeremy Crosmer. Commissioned by the orchestra, the piece celebrates American classical music of the 20th century by Charles Ives, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. The title takes its cue from Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Crosmer, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, grew up near the Ozark Mountains.
Crosmer, who served as assistant principal cellist of the Grand Rapids Symphony for five years, this fall takes up a new post in the cello section of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Taken together, Lehninger promises an exciting opening to the Grand Rapids Symphony's new season.
“You can’t ask for more,” he said. “It’s going to be wonderful.”