From 'Down Under' to downtown, Marcelo Lehninger makes his debut as Grand Rapids Symphony music director this week

Music Director Marcelo Lehninger makes his long-awaited debut as Grand Rapids Symphony’s music director this week.

Appointed in June, the 37-year-old conductor returns to Grand Rapids, if not well-rested, then well-prepared.

In September, he traveled to Australia for the first time in his career with another eminent Brazilian musician, pianist Nelson Freire.

Together, the boys from Brazil appeared with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the Sydney Opera House and with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

It was a world-class dress rehearsal for Lehninger’s upcoming concerts in Grand Rapids.

Freire, age 72, was soloist in Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, a work that Lehninger will conduct next January with the Grand Rapids Symphony and pianist Daniel Hsu, a Gilmore Young Artist, in St. Cecilia Music Center.

In Australia, Lehninger also conducted Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, a romantic, passionate, large scale work that he’ll conduct on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28-29, in DeVos Performance Hall in a program titled Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto.

“It’s really a piece that, I think, is talking about the life journey,” Lehninger said recently. “Going from melancholic moments to having moments of love, moments of triumph, and moments of fear.

“It’s really a complete piece of art,” he added

Lehninger, who also taught a conducting seminar in Perth, took Australia by storm.

“It was obvious from the get-go that he is a class act,” wrote the Sydney Daily Telegraph about Lehninger’s performance on Sept. 21 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Meanwhile, Murray Black of The Australian, declared Lehninger’s performance to be equal to that of Vladimir Ashkenazy who conducted it with the Sydney Symphony during its 2007 Rachmaninoff Festival.

Conductor Marcelo Lehninger’s exhilarating account matched it in quality, conveying the symphony’s emotional power with immediacy and intensity.

Like Ashkenazy, Lehninger’s tempos were swift without seeming hard-driven. His judiciously employed doses of accelerando and rallentando and astute dynamic control sustained tension and momentum while investing the work with coruscating adrenalin rushes when needed.

“Coruscating” means to emit sparkles or flashes of light.

Lehninger, who already is at work planning the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2017-18 season, conducts four programs this season with the orchestra.

He leads Brahms’ Tragic Overture and Haydn Variations as well as Schumann’s only piano concerto, for the GRS Great Eras series program, The Romantic Concert: Schumann & Brahms on Jan. 6.

In February, he returns for “Mozart, Mahler & Marcelo” with pianist Andrew von Oeyen and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 plus Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 on Feb. 3-4 in DeVos Hall.

He’ll be back in March for “Pictures at an Exhibition” with the popular work by Mussorgsky plus Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, John Corigliano’s Promenade Overture, and Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto, featuring violinist Stefan Jackiw, on March 3-4 in DeVos Hall.

This week, along with Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2, Lehninger conducts Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Russian violinist Philippe Quint as soloist.

By coincidence, Quint was soloist when Lehninger made his DeVos Performance Hall debut in February 2015, leading the Grand Rapids Symphony in Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 From the New World.

The all-Russian program on Oct. 28-29 is a great evening for a first-time concert goers, Lehninger said.

“It’s a program with two pieces that, if you are a musician or if you’re a concert goer, you will enjoy. And if you’ve never been to a concert before and you go to this concert, there’s a great possibility that you’re going to come out an aficionado of classical music.”

Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at 7:00 AM
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