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New GR Symphony maestro makes MI home

Terry Johnston | Grand Rapids Symphony
Grad Rapids Symphony's Marcelo Lehninger

This weekend marks the final concert of the season where the Grand Rapids Symphony will be led by incoming Music Director Marcelo Lehninger. WKAR’s afternoon classical host has more with the Maestro.

Note: This is the third part of a series of interviews with Maestro Lehninger. Find the first two parts via the links below the following article

During this 2016-17 concert season, two big transitions are happening in Kent County, Michigan. The Grand Rapids Symphony hired Brazilian conductor Marcelo Lehninger as their new Music Director. And while Maestro Lehninger has been learning the strengths of his musicians, engaging the Grand Rapids community, he has also been preparing to settle down and bring his wife and two daughters to Michigan.

"Well this is actually something very important since Grand Rapids will be my home." says Lehninger. "I'm moving here [in the] summer. of course, everyone that I met was through the Symphony. Those are the people that I'm meeting right now, because of course, it's kind of arriving and meeting the family."

While this is not the final concert of the season for the Grand Rapids Symphony, it’s the last to feature Maestro Lehninger as he is still in transition to living in Michigan full time. And to help complete this warm welcome, the symphony will play American composer John Corigliano’s Promenade Overture which features the symphony entering the stage instrument by instrument.

"The choreography element, it's very interesting because it's the reverse of the Haydn Farewell Symphony." " explains Lehninger  while referencing the Symphony in which Haydn had musicians snuff their candles out one-by-one until only two violinists are left on stage at the end. "So, the musicians actually the enter the stage while playing, the orchestra gets bigger and bigger. And I think the idea for us to have that piece is just the last concert of my first season is just everybody kinda getting together. That was kind of the idea of having that piece."

[Music from Corigliano's Promenade Overture.]

"It's really interesting to have such a fun, happy piece to begin the program, and then as the next piece, probably one of the most sad, and melancholic pieces ever written."
That piece, arguably most famous for its use in the movie PLATOON, is Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. And I had to ask Maestro Lehninger about the famous musical peak of Barber’s Adagio and the abrupt silence that follows… does he count the beats in that silence or does he feel it out?
"Ah, very technical, I like that!" exclaims Lehininger. "It depends on the feeling, depends on the mood, depends of the acoustics. It depends on the reaction of the audience. Although we don't see or hear the reaction yet, the energy is there. No, I never count that moment, I just kinda wait to start."

[Music from Barber's Adagio]

When Marcelo Lehninger was named the 14th Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony in June of 2016, much of the concert season was already planned. And while the American-centric first half of this weekend’s concert had a little bit of wiggle room to adjust to Lehninger’s choices, the second half was always meant to be Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

[Music from The Great Gate of Kiev, from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.]

"It is a piece that allows you to explore so many colors in the orchestra" says Lehninger. "and because we do the Ravel orchestration, which was a master orchestration, there are so many colors that you can explore that I'm really looking forward to do that with this group. And again, seeing the possibilities of exploring those colors."

Maestro Marcelo Lehniniger and the Grand Rapids Symphony perform a concert this Friday and Saturday at DeVos Performance Hall in downtown Grand Rapids. More information at GRSymphony.org.

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