Grand Rapids Symphony’s performs an evening of Tchaikovsky to welcome the New Year

Media Contact
Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
Senior Manager of Communications and Media Relations
616.454.9451 ext. 139

GRAND RAPIDS, MI., December, 27, 2017– At the height of the Cold War in October 1957, the former Soviet Union sent Sputnik into orbit, the first shot in the race for space. Six months later, a lanky, 23-year-old Texan fired back on behalf of the United States.

In Moscow before a Russian audience, Van Cliburn gave dazzling performances of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 to win the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition.

Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York City, a cover story in Time magazine and a recording contract from RCA Victor. Soon, his Grammy Award-winning recording of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto became the first classical recording in the world to sell 1 million copies, helping the concerto become an all-time favorite among audiences.

In January, Grand Rapids Symphony returns to DeVos Performance Hall with an All-Tchaikovsky concert including the perennially popular piano concerto.

Music Director Marcelo Lehninger leads the orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and in the Polonaise from Tchaikovsky’s opera, Eugene Onegin, at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 12-13, in DeVos Performance Hall.

Guest pianist Gabriela Montero will be soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 for the fourth concerts of the 2017-18 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series. Guest artist sponsor is the Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

The Latin Grammy Award-winning pianist and twice Grammy nominated artist, who performed at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2008, won the Bronze Medal at the 13th International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1995.

A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Montero gave her first public performance at age 5. Three years later, she made her concert debut with the Simon Bolívar Youth Orchestra, earning a scholarship from the Venezuelan government to study in the United States. At age 12, she won the Baldwin National Competition and AMSA Young Artist International Piano Competition, leading to a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to her interpretations of classical masterworks, Montero is celebrated as a brilliant improviser, a skill that’s almost disappeared among contemporary classical pianists. A fearless barnstormer who often extemporizes on musical themes suggested by the audience, her improvisations astonish listeners for their craftsmanship and clarity as well as their complexity.

Montero began improvising at the piano at age 4. For many years, she kept her improvisational forays a secret. The world-famous Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich encouraged her to do it in public.

“At that point I made the decision,” Montero told the British newspaper The Independent in 2010. “I'm a classical artist and if the classical world shuns me because I improvise, then that's a risk I have to take, because I have to show myself exactly as I am.”

Montero has been heard on National Public Radio’s “Performance Today” show, improvising on melodies called in by listeners. Montero also has been profiled on CBS TV’s “60 Minutes” in December 2006.

Her 2006 recording “Bach and Beyond” for EMI, a recording entirely of her improvisation on themes of J.S. Bach, held the top spot on the Billboard Classical Charts for several months. Two years later, her follow-up CD, “Baroque,” garnered a Grammy Award nomination.

Montero won the 2015 Latin Grammy Award for Best Classical Album for her debut recording as pianist performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, as composer of an original work, “Ex Patria,” and as an improviser.

A humanitarian and activist for human rights, Montero was appointed first Honorary Consul of Amnesty International in May 2015.

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

  • The complete All Tchaikovsky program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, April 8, 2018, 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 ticket 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 Tickets program, sponsored by Comerica and Calvin College. 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 was held in March 2017 and returns in 2019.

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.