Two Women, Violin Soloist And Conductor, Lead Grand Rapids Symphony In Extraordinary Concerts
Extraordinary occurrences like this don't happen every day.
Two women, a world-class violinist born on the South Side of Chicago, and a Grammy Award winning conductor, join the Grand Rapids Symphony to perform music by a promising French woman who died tragically at age 24, and by a Russian man who composed a piece of music so moving and so profound, it led Time magazine to put him on its cover following the work's American debut in 1946.
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 with music including Sergei Prokofiev's triumphant Symphony No. 5.
Murray, winner of the First Prize in the inaugural Sphinx Competition for African-American and Latino musicians in Detroit, will be soloist in Eduardo 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.
"They're simply three pieces I love," Falletta said. "Each is a superb musical composition in its own right, and together they comprise an intriguing program."
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."
Composed in Russia in the summer of 1944 as American troops fought their way across Europe, with the final outcome of World War II still unknown, Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony celebrates a people's determined perseverance in their nation's darkest hours.
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 serves as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra as well as Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Center, and Artistic Adviser of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra.
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 orchestra has become one of the leading recording orchestras for Naxos and has returned twice to Carnegie Hall. In 2018, the BPO made its first international tour in three decades, performing at Warsaw's prestigious Beethoven Easter Festival in Poland. She and the BPO have been honored with numerous ASCAP awards, including the top award for Adventurous Programming.
With a discography of over 115 titles, 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.
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.
Tickets for Prokofiev Triumphant start at $18, available by calling the GRS ticket office at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4. Phone orders will be charged a $3 per ticket handling fee ($18 maximum per order). There are no fees for tickets purchased in person at the GRS ticket office at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across the street from Calder Plaza). Ticket office hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Tickets are available at the DeVos Place box office, weekdays 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets may be purchased online at GRSymphony.org.