Violinist Karen Gomyo and her Stradivarius violin open Grand Rapids Symphony 2018-19 season

Classically trained musicians have a close, intimate relationship with their musical instruments. They have to.

When violinist Karen Gomyo first was introduced to her Stradivarius violin, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. But it was close.

“I’m incredibly attached to it,” she told San Francisco Classical Voice prior to a performance in 2012.

Gomyo performs on a Stradivarius violin titled the “Aurora, exFoulis,” which was built in 1703. When she first began playing it, it hadn’t been played much for decades.

“It felt to me that it was a well-behaved, polite instrument that had a lot of potential, she said. “Over the next few years, the more it was played on, the more it started to shine from within.”

Gomyo will join the Grand Rapids Symphony to perform Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto to open the orchestra’s 2018-19 season on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14-15 in DeVos Performance Hall.

Music Director Marcelo Lehninger will lead the orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 for the opening of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series.

Tickets for Beethoven’s 7th  start at $18 for adults, $5 students. Tickets are available from the Grand Rapids Symphony box office at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or by going online at GRSymphony.org.

In memory of philanthropist Rich DeVos, who died last week at age 92, the Grand Rapids Symphony will remember its stalwart support with remarks and special music. 

Associate Conductor John Varineau, who is in his 34th season with the Grand Rapids Symphony, will offer brief remarks on the second half of the concert. Afterward, Lehninger will lead the orchestra in Maurice Ravel's Pavane, a brief, beautiful work that lies somewhere between a hymn and a folk song.

A moment of silence will follow, leading to the performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, a piece that accompanied the climactic scene of the 2010 film “The King’s Speech,” As actor Colin Firth, as King George VI, overcomes the stammer he's had since childhood to announce to the British people on radio that his country was now at war with Nazi Germany, the allegretto movement from Beethoven's symphony lends gravitas to the moment.

“It’s such a wonderful way to start a season,” said Music Director Marcelo Lehninger. “Not only with Beethoven, but with that Beethoven Symphony.”

Lehninger also will lead the orchestra in Leonard Bernstein’s Divertimento, a cheeky work full of nods to other composers, inside jokes and extraverted humor was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1980.

Born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and a French-Canadian father, Gomyo moved to Canada with her family at age 2 and lived in Montreal. When the world-famous violin teacher Dorothy DeLay accepted Gomyo at The Juilliard School at age 11, Gomyo and her mother moved to New York City.

At 15, she became the youngest violinist ever accepted on the management roster of Young Concert Artists. In 2008 at age 26, she was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant.

Gomyo has performed with top American orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra in the United States as well as with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Danish National Symphony, and Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.

Gomyo, who served as violinist, host and narrator for a documentary about Antonio Stradivarius titled The Mysteries of the Supreme Violin, performs on a Stradivarius violin that was bought for her exclusive use by a private sponsor.

“I would describe my violin as having a very pure tone. That doesn’t mean quiet; it certainly carries very well in a hall. But it’s a silvery tone. It has a lot of warmth,” she told San Francisco Classical Voice

Unlike many Stradivari, the instrument never was owned previously by a renowned violinist. Through the entire 20th century, it only had three owners, which also is rare for an instrument of this caliber.

Gomyo said it took her years to get acquainted with the instrument because an instrument such as a Stradivarius has its own character.

“It comes with a strong personality and you can’t impose yourself on it,” Gomyo told Utah based classical music writer Edward Reichel in October 2015. “You have to let it speak.”

Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at 12:00 PM
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