The Rapidian

Two women, Grammy winning conductor and African-American violinist, join Grand Rapids Symphony for music by Prokofiev and more, Nov. 15-16

Conductor JoAnn Falletta and violinist Tai Murray lead concerts including music by a promising, young French woman who died at 24
Violinist Tai Murray performs Lalo's 'Symphonie Espagnole' with the Grand Rapids Symphony on Nov. 15-16, 2019.

Violinist Tai Murray performs Lalo's 'Symphonie Espagnole' with the Grand Rapids Symphony on Nov. 15-16, 2019. /Courtesy Photo

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Coming next to the Grand Rapids Symphony's stage

WOLVERINE WORLDWIDE HOLIDAY POPS

Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 5-8, 2019

  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday
  • 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday
  • 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday
  • 2 p.m. Sunday

DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

It’s Grand Rapids’ favorite Holiday music tradition!  Your family will thrill to the sounds of the season as the Grand Rapids Pops plus the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus and their very special guests perform this sparkling holiday celebration.  Carols, sing-alongs and more.  And yes, Virginia, there will be a Santa Claus!

  • Tickets for the Fox Motors Pops series start at $18 adults, $5 students.

“CIRQUE DE NOEL”

Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 18-19, 2019

  • 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday

DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Since 2009, Cirque de la Symphonie has spent part of each Christmas season in Grand Rapids. Celebrating its 10th annual Cirque de Noel with the Grand Rapids Symphony, Cirque de la Symphonie’s company of acrobats, jugglers, contortionists and aerial artists makes merry with amazing feats of agility and strength, accompanied by beloved Christmas songs and classical favorites.

  • Tickets for the Gerber SymphonicBoom series start at $18 adults, $5 students.
  • Call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online to GRSymphony.org
Grammy winning conductor JoAnn Falletta leads the Grand Rapids Symphony in music by Prokofiev and French composer Lili Boulanger

Grammy winning conductor JoAnn Falletta leads the Grand Rapids Symphony in music by Prokofiev and French composer Lili Boulanger /Courtesy photo

Grand Rapids Symphony performs Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15-16, 2019, in DeVos Performance Hall

Grand Rapids Symphony performs Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15-16, 2019, in DeVos Performance Hall /Terry Johnston | Grand Rapids Symphony

In the world of Classical Music, fewer women than men are major soloists on violin or piano.

Even fewer women hold posts as conductors or music directors. Fewest of all are the number of women whose music is performed regularly in the concert hall.

Grand Rapids Symphony is turning that upside down this week with music by a woman, conducted by a woman, in a concert with a woman as guest soloist.

A Grammy Award winning conductor and a world-class violinist born on the South Side of Chicago, join the Grand Rapids Symphony for a concert including music by a promising French woman who died tragically at age 24.

Violinist Tai Murray joins guest conductor JoAnn Falletta for Prokofiev Triumphant at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, November 14-15, in DeVos Performance Hall for music by Sergei Prokofiev, Eduardo Lalo and Lili Boulanger.

Tickets start at $18 adults, $5 students. Call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 or go online to GRSymphony.org

“They’re simply three pieces I love,” said Falletta, who is Music Director of the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra. “Each is a superb musical composition in its own right, and together they comprise an intriguing program.”

With a nod towards Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11, the program includes Prokofiev’s triumphant Symphony No. 5, composed during the summer of 1944 during the darkest days of World War II and premiered in Moscow the following January is war continued. The piece is so moving and so profound, it led Time magazine to put the Prokofiev on its cover following the work’s American debut in 1946.

Murray, winner of the First Prize in the inaugural Sphinx Competition for African-American and Latino musicians in Detroit, will be soloist in Lalo’s brilliantly virtuosic Symphonie Espagnole.

Falletta, who has conducted well over 100 orchestras throughout the world, will lead the Grand Rapids Symphony in two short works by Lili Boulanger, a French composer who flourished briefly in the first few years of the 20th century.

In 1986, Falletta led the Women’s Philharmonic in the U.S. premiere of Boulanger’s D’un soir triste (Of a Sad Evening) and D’un matin de printemps (Of a Spring Morning).

“In the Boulanger, one will hear the last orchestral works of what would have been one of the transformative composers of the 20th century had she not passed at the way to premature age of 24.”

Falletta returns to lead the fourth concert of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2019-20 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series. Spectrum Health is the Concert Sponsor. Guest artist sponsor is the Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

A recipient of many of the most prestigious conducting awards, Falletta was named Performance Today’s 2019 Classical Woman of The Year.  She last appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony in March 2017.

“I always look forward to working with the Grand Rapids Symphony,” she said. “The musicians and staff are superb, and I love the city.”

With World War II still being waged, Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, celebrating a people’s determined perseverance in trying times, was premiered in January 1945 in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory by the USSR State Symphony Orchestra with the composer conducting. As Prokofiev took the stage, artillery fire was heard in the distance, and the composer paused until it stopped. The audience learned afterward that the gunfire wasn’t cause for alarm. It marked the Soviet Red Army’s crossing of Poland’s Vistula River into Germany.

“In the Prokofiev we have one of the defining symphonies of the 20th century, uplifting us with an ennobling humanitarian statement written in the darkest days of the World War II, and expressing the composer's ultimate belief in the goodness and power of the human spirit,” Falletta said.

The week after its American premiere by Boston Symphony Orchestra in November 1946, Time magazine put Prokofiev’s picture on its cover. Music Director Serge Koussevitzky, who led the performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, proclaimed afterward:

“The Fifth Symphony is the greatest musical event in many, many years. The greatest since Brahms and Tchaikovsky. It is magnificent! It is yesterday, it is today, it is tomorrow.”

Lili Boulanger and her sister Nadia Boulanger, the famed pedagogue who taught two generations of American composers from Aaron Copland to Philip Glass, were the children of a Russian princess who fell in love and married a French music teacher and settled in France.

The first woman to win the prestigious Prix de Rome at age 19, Lili Boulanger was one of the most exciting composers of the early 20th century until her tragic death at age 24. From her sick bed, she dictated her final piece, a setting of the Pie Jesu from the Latin Requiem Mass, to her sister, Nadia. Its text translates in English as, “Merciful Jesus, Grant them rest (everlasting).

Falletta, who conducted the U.S. premiere of the Lili Boulanger works with the Women’s Philharmonic in 1986, said she really feels “a special closeness to this music.”

Violinist Tai Murray, a former BBC young generation artist, a member of the Marlboro Festival and of Lincoln Center's Chamber Music Society, gave her London Proms Debut in 2016 with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Thomas Sondergard.

Winner of an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2004, Tai Murray has performed as guest soloist in such halls as London’s The Barbican, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, and Shanghai’s Concert Hall with such ensembles as the Atlanta Symphony, BBC Scottish Symphony, and Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar. She first appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony in April 2007, performing the Erich Korngold Violin Concerto.

Grammy-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta, who led conducted the Grand Rapids Symphony in March 2017, has guest conducted many of the most prominent orchestras in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa.

Celebrating her 20th anniversary with the Buffalo Philharmonic this season, the ensemble recently made its first international tour in three decades, performing at Warsaw’s prestigious Beethoven Easter Festival in Poland. She and the philharmonic have been honored with numerous ASCAP awards, including the top award for Adventurous Programming.

Falletta earlier this year won her first individual Grammy Award as conductor of the London Symphony in the category of Best Classical Compendium for Spiritualist, her fifth world premiere recording of music of Kenneth Fuchs. Her Naxos recording of John Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan received two Grammys in 2008.

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Falletta has served on the National Council on the Arts during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

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