Marcelo Lehninger leads Grand Rapids Symphony in music you almost can see March 3-4 in DeVos Hall

GRAND RAPIDS, MI., Feb. 17, 2017 – Minor incidents that might otherwise be lost to history sometimes inspire major works of art.

The death of a minor Italian poet Alessandro Manzoni was the inspiration that led to Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem, one of the greatest works ever composed for chorus and orchestra in the concert hall.

The death of an unimportant Russian artist and architect Viktor Hartmann led Modest Mussorgsky to compose Pictures at an Exhibition for piano duet. And if French composer Maurice Ravel hadn’t taken a fancy to it, it’s a safe bet few would know it today.

Plenty of Baby Boomers first heard of it thanks to progressive rockers Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s seminal 1972 recording, but it’s nothing compared to Ravel’s fully orchestrated treatment.

Today, Ravel’s version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, a cinematic extravaganza in sound, is a perennial audience favorite.

Grand Rapids Symphony’s new Music Director Marcelo Lehninger returns to DeVos Performance Hall on Friday and Saturday March 3-4 to conduct the orchestra in “Pictures at an Exhibition” as well as Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major with guest soloist Stephan Jackiw.

Samuel Barber’s famous Adagio for Strings and John Corigliano’s Promenade Overture (1981) also are part of the seventh concerts of the 2016-17 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series at 8 p.m. Warner, Norcross & Judd LLP is the Concert Sponsor.

It’s all music you almost can see. That’s because Korngold was a famous film composer of the 1930s and 40s, and Barber’s Adagio for Strings has been featured prominently in such movies as “Platoon” and “Lorenzo’s Oil.”

Korngold, born in Moravia in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, is better known today for his swashbuckling film scores for films such as The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn. Though he had intended to become a composer of concert music, Korngold almost singlehandedly invented the lush, cinematic film score that paved the way for such composers as John Williams and the musical scores of Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Harry Potter.

Korngold, a Jew, was in Hollywood when Austria fell victim to annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938. He remained in the United States and survived the war. Only after the Allied victory did the composer return to composing serious music. But his years of Hollywood work were not left entirely behind. His Violin Concerto, composed in 1947, is filled with romantic, virtuoso nods to Korngold’s films scores.

Violinist Stefan Jackiw, whose career has included performing at the grand opening of Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall alongside pianist Emanuel Ax, soprano Renée Fleming and conductor James Levine, will be soloist in the Violin Concerto in D Major. Jackiw is best known to younger audiences for his performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concert with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra at Australia’s Sydney Opera house, seen live on YouTube by more than 30 million people worldwide.

Guest artist sponsor is the Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

Barber’s Adagio for Strings needs no introduction. Its haunting melody was broadcast over the radio at the announcement of the deaths of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, at the funerals of Albert Einstein and Princess Grace of Monaco, and by the BBC several times after the announcement of the death of Princess Diana.

What’s makes for a good story is the 28-year-old composer had the gumption to send the score to the celebrated conductor Arturo Toscanini, director of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Weeks later, Toscanini returned the score to Barber without comment, which distressed the American composer. As it turned out, Toscanini had decided to conduct the piece and had only returned the score because he had committed it to memory. Its premiere was given in November 1938 in a live radio broadcast from the NBC studios at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Lehninger, winner of the League of American Orchestras’ 2014 Helen M. Thompson Award for an Emerging Music Director, conducts the third of his four scheduled concerts with the Grand Rapids Symphony this season. In June 2016, the 37-year-old Brazilian conductor was the unanimous choice of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Music Director Search Committee to become the artistic leader of the orchestra to succeed former Music director David Lockington.

  • 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 Pictures at an Exhibition program will be rebroadcast on May 7, 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.