Guest conductor leads Grand Rapids Symphony in Respighi’s epic tone poem, “The Pines of Rome”

Media Contact:
Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
Grand Rapids Symphony
616.454.9451 x 139

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – April 8, 2016 – Ottorino Respighi flourished 100 years ago as a composer in Italy, but he cast his eye even further into the past to compose a series of epic tone poems.

“The Pines of Rome,” inspired by centuries-old trees that dotted the landscape, recall memories children playing among trees, shadows cast over nearby catacombs, a particular tree-covered hill at night under a full moon, and a vision of the past glories of Rome along the Appian Way when all roads led to the Eternal City.

You’ve heard excerpts from “The Pines of Rome” in movies. Now hear it played live.

The Grand Rapids Symphony performs Respighi’s monumental work, “The Pines of Rome,” on Friday and Saturday April 22-23, 2016, in DeVos Performance Hall. Guest violinist Arnaud Sussmann is soloist in Bela Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 2 on a program of music from four distinctly different cultures.

Guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger, who had the audience on the edge of its seats with Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony No. 9 during his Grand Rapids Symphony debut in February 2015, returns to lead the ninth concert of the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series.

Concert sponsor is Warner Norcross & Judd, and guest artist sponsor is the Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

Lehninger, the eighth guest conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2015-16 season, is one of the eight candidates to become the next GRS music director.

Lehninger, the eighth guest conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2015-16 season, is one of the eight candidates to become the next GRS music director. 

The Brazilian-born conductor leads the orchestra in Heitor Villa-Lobos’ "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5" with guest soprano Jessica Rivera and in two of by Claude Debussy’s 24 Préludes, originally for piano, arranged for orchestra by British composer Colin Matthews.

Lehninger, who is in his final season as music director of the New West Symphony Orchestra in Los Angeles, was awarded the Helen M. Thompson Award for an Emerging Music Director by the League of American Orchestras during his tenure.

Last year, Lehninger concluded his second and final season as associate conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra under James Levine.

Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome” has appeared in movie soundtracks or influenced composers in their film scores.

• An edited version of “The Pines of Rome” accompanied the frolicking humpback whales in “Fantasia 2000”

• Film composer John Williams has revealed that in his score for “Superman,” the music for Planet Krypton is strongly modeled after the fourth movement of “The Pines of Rome.”

Bela Bartok, a musicologist as well as a composer, was influenced by Hungarian folk song when he composed his second violin concerto.

Violinist Arnaud Sussmann, winner of a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant, has been a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center since 2006. The French-born violinist, winner of several competitions, was Itzhak Perlman’s teaching assistant for two years at The Juilliard School.   

Villa-Lobos, who grew up at the dawn of the 20th century, playing music in cafes and later clarinet in the Rio de Janeiro Opera, composed a set of works called Bachianas Brasileiras, inspired by the music of J.S. Bach and by the native folk music of northeastern Brazil.

Soprano Jessica Rivera has sung such works as Brahms’ “A German Requiem” with conductor Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Atlanta as well as on tour in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

• Upbeat, a free, pre-concert, multi-media presentation, with guest conductor Perry So, will be held before each performance at 7 p.m. in the DeVos Place Recital Hall. Upbeat is sponsored by BDO USA.

• “The Pines of Rome” will be rebroadcast on Sunday, May 22 at 1 p.m. on Blue Lake Public Radio 88.9 FM or 90.3 FM.


Tickets start at $18 and are available at the GRS box office, weekdays 9 am -5 pm at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.)
Tickets are available at the DeVos Place box office, weekdays 10 am - 6 pm or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets also may be purchased through Ticketmaster at 800.982.2787, online at or in person at Ticketmaster outlets at select D&W Fresh Markets, Family Fare Stores and Walmart. Tickets purchased at these locations will include a Ticketmaster service fee. 

Full-time students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the GRS Student Passport program. This is a MySymphony360 eligible concert.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Advisor Larry Rachleff, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS sponsors the biennial GRS sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the Grand Rapids Symphony’s website,

This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.