Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

3x Grammy Winning Grand Rapids Native Returns For GR Symphony Concert

3x Grammy Winning Grand Rapids Native Returns For GR Symphony Concert

Gustav Mahler loved nature.

One of the greatest conductors of his time, Mahler spent the fall, winter and spring on the podium. In the summer, he escaped to the Austrian countryside to compose. At the edge of a meadow, with a view of a lake and the Alpine mountains in the distance, Mahler had built a tiny hut with a desk, a piano and a book shelf where he would compose most of his greatest music including his Symphony No. 3 in D major.

Grand Rapids Symphony will assemble its largest musical ensemble of the season for Mahler's Symphony No. 3 on Friday, April 12, and Saturday, April 13, at 8 p.m. in DeVos Performance Hall. The concert is the ninth program of the 2018-19 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series.

Music Director Marcelo Lehninger will lead nearly 250 musicians in the performance of Mahler's Third Symphony including 100 instrumentalists plus the women of the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, and the voices of the Grand Rapids Symphony Junior Chorus, and Mandala, a select ensemble from the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus.

Special guest is mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, a three-time Grammy Award winner regarded as one of today's finest interpreters of the music of Mahler. In fact, one of her three Grammy Awards is the 2003 award for Best Classical Album for her recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 3 and his Kindertotenlieder with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony.

DeYoung, who was born in Grand Rapids and who later attended Calvin College, makes her first appearance with the Grand Rapids Symphony since January 2005 during the orchestra's 75th anniversary season. Guest Artist Sponsor is Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

Grand Rapids Symphony, Mahler's Symphony No. 3, page 2

Mahler's Symphony No. 3, which lasts 100 minutes, will be the only piece on the program.

"It's one of the longest symphonies ever written," Lehninger said. "But it's so colorful, and there's so many things happening, you're never tired of it."

Mahler, who enjoyed long walks in the countryside, was devoted to nature. The outdoors is a continuing theme in his music. In the summer of 1896, the young conductor Bruno Walter paid a visit to Mahler in the little Alpine village of Steinbach am Attersee. As Walter stood there admiring the beautiful mountain scenery, Mahler told him, "You needn't stand staring at that. I've already composed it all."

Mahler was speaking of his Third Symphony, which encapsulates his entire cosmology and is the longest symphony that he ever wrote. "A symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything," he said.

Completed 1896, it was voted one of the 10 greatest symphonies of all time in a poll of more than 100 professional conductors held in 2016 by BBC Music Magazine. That list was topped by Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony No. 3 and his "Choral" Symphony No. 9 plus Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony No. 41.

In 2011, the adagio from Mahler's Third Symphony was arranged for small orchestra by conductor Yoon Jae Lee and premiered in New York City by Ensemble 212 on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

"It has become a huge part of my life," DeYoung said about the music of Mahler in a 2017 interview at the Aspen Music Festival. "I love the emotional journey that he takes you on. In the symphonies, in the songs, in everything, if you allow yourself to go with it, you can really experience a very wide range of emotions throughout the one piece."

"But he almost always, in symphonies and songs, ends with hope," she added.

Michelle DeYoung, who was born in Grand Rapids while her father attended Calvin Theological Seminary, appears frequently with many of the world's leading orchestras, including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras and the Cleveland Orchestra. Elsewhere, she has performed with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in the Netherlands, and the Sao Paulo Symphony in Brazil. In opera, she has appeared as Dalila in Samson et Dalila, Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde; Herodias in Salome; Amneris in Aida; and as Fricka, Sieglinde and Waltraute in Wagner's The Ring Cycle in such international opera houses as La Scala, Bayreuth Festival, Berliner Staatsoper, Opera National de Paris, and Tokyo Opera as well as in The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Seattle Opera in the United States.

Her past appearances with the Grand Rapids Symphony include Hector Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust with the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus and Opera Grand Rapids Chorus in October 2003, and Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde during the orchestra's 75th anniversary season in January 2005.

About 80 women from the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, directed by Pearl Shangkuan, will participate in the performance. Another 60 young singers including high school-age singers from the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus's select ensemble, Mandala, and fourth, fifth and sixth graders from the Youth Chorus's Junior Chorus, directed by Jackie Sonderfan-Schoon, also will perform.

• 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 Mahler's Symphony No. 3 program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, May 19, 2019, at 1 p.m. on Blue Lake Public Radio 88.9 FM or 90.3 FM.

Tickets for the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series start at $18 and are available at the Grand Rapids Symphony box office, weekdays 9 am - 5 pm at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across the street from Calder Plaza). Call (616) 454-9451 x 4 to order by phone. (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 am - 6 pm or on the day of the concert beginning two hours before the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at

Related Articles View More Detroit Stories   Shows

More Hot Stories For You