Marcelo Lehninger debuts as Grand Rapids Symphony music director with ravishing, Russian music

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GRAND RAPIDS, MI., Oct. 13, 2016 – Leopold Auer, one of the foremost violinists of the end of the 19th century, refused to touch Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

It mattered not that Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky had dedicated the work for solo violin and orchestra to him. Auer declared it to be “unplayable.” At least, that’s the English translation.

Violinist Philippe Quint, however, says that’s not true, and he should know. The celebrated violinist appearing with the Grand Rapids Symphony on Oct. 28-29 has played it countless times. What’s more, the Russian-born violinist speaks both languages involved in the misunderstanding.

“It's a total myth, at least based on my personal research,” Quint said in a September 2014 interview with “The concerto was not proclaimed ‘unplayable,’ that is an English translation of the Russian word, ‘unviolinistic,’ which is what Leopold Auer said in his memoirs. He also did not exactly, as the history says, decline to play the piece.”

Tchaikovsky wasn’t a violinist, nor did he consult Auer while composing the work. In his memoirs, Auer said he liked the first two movements, but the third needed revisions.

Frustrated while waiting for Auer to work on those revisions, Tchaikovsky rededicated it to Adolph Brodsky, who gave the premiere in 1881. It’s been an audience favorite ever since.

Grand Rapids Symphony Music Director Marcelo Lehninger returns to DeVos Performance Hall for his first concert appearance with the orchestra since his appointment this summer as music director.  

Lehninger will lead an all-Russian program, featuring a Russian-born soloist, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, October 28-29, in DeVos Performance Hall. Miller Johnson is the Concert Sponsor. Guest artist sponsor is the Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

The program includes Sergei Rachmaninoff’s hauntingly beautiful Symphony No. 2, a work of hope and redemption as well as a superb “starter symphony.”  If you’ve never been to a symphony orchestra concert, you couldn’t ask for a better piece for your first experience.

Grammy-nominated violinist Philippe Quint returns for his second appearance with the Grammy-nominated Grand Rapids Symphony for the third concerts of the 2016-17 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series.

In fact, Quint and Lehninger made their debuts together with the Grand Rapids Symphony in February 2015.

Winner of the League of American Orchestras’ 2014 Helen M. Thompson Award for an Emerging Music Director, Lehninger was the unanimous choice of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Music Director Search Committee, following a three-and-a-half year search for its 14th music director since the orchestra was founded in 1930.

Lehninger, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Oct. 1, will conduct the Grand Rapids Symphony in four programs this season, beginning with this appearance.

Upcoming concerts for Lehninger in 2016-17 include:

  • The Romantic Concert: Schumann & Brahms with Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor and Brahms’ Tragic Overture and Haydn Variations on Jan. 6, 2017, in St. Cecilia Music Center for the Crowe Horwath Great Eras Series. Guest pianist is Daniel Hsu.

  • “Mozart, Mahler & Marcelo” with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 on Feb. 3-4, 2017, in DeVos Performance Hall for the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series. Guest pianist is Andrew von Oeyen.

  • “Pictures at an Exhibition” with Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto, and Mussorgsky’s popular “Pictures at an Exhibition,” on March 3-4, 2017, in DeVos Performance Hall. Guest violinist is Stefan Jackiw.

The drama surrounding Tchaikovsky’s only concerto for violin and orchestra did not end with its completion. Following the premiere, the famous Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick dropped a bombshell with his review.

“This music stinks to the ear!” Hanslick said, a sentence that has gone down in infamy in the history of classical music. In fairness, neither Adolph Brodsky nor the orchestra was adequately prepared for the concert. The debut may have been a disaster, leading Hanslick to miss the forest for the trees.

The passing of time and audience adulation have proven Hanslick wrong. That and Tchaikovsky did make major revisions, Auer eventually edited the third and final movement, and the rest is history.

Quint, a well-traveled musician who has appeared with major orchestras throughout the world, has given performances and interviews for CBS, NBC and ABC as well as BBC, CNN and Reuters and Bloomberg TV plus radio appearances for NPR and WNYC-FM and WQXR-FM.

Despite his French-sounding name, Philippe Quint is a native of Russia.

Winner of the 2014 “Ambassador of Arts” award presented by the Brownstone and Gateway Organizations at the United Nations. Philippe engages in outreach programs worldwide, speaking at universities, and at concerts as well as people in all walks of life.

Music isn’t Quint’s only foray into performance. He’s also a successful film actor and played a lead role in the 2012 film Downtown Express co-starring Nellie McKay, produced Michael Hausmann (Gangs of New York, Brokeback Mountain and Amadeus), and directed by multi-Emmy winning director David Grubin.

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

  • The Grand Rapids Symphony this season has introduced a special cocktail for its audiences in DeVos Performance Hall. At every concert in the 2016-17 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series, try a “Spirit of the Symphony,” also called a French 75.

  • The complete Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto program will be rebroadcast on March 26, 2017, 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 ticket 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 a.m. - 6 p.m. or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at

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 Director Marcelo Lehninger, 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 provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet and sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which returns in March 2017.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the website or

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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.