The Rapidian

Cinematic Shostakovich and 'optimistic, absolutely stunning' music by Mozart come to Grand Rapids Symphony stage

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Two longtime friends, celebrated conductor Peter Oundjian, pianist Jeffrey Kahane join the Grand Rapids Symphony for music by Shostakovich and Mozart on Jan. 10-11.
Guest conductor Peter Oundjian leads the Grand Rapids Symphony in music by Shostakovich and Mozart on Jan. 10-11.

Guest conductor Peter Oundjian leads the Grand Rapids Symphony in music by Shostakovich and Mozart on Jan. 10-11. /Sian Richards

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Coming next to the Grand Rapids Symphony's stage

HOLLYWOOD HITS

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 17-18
  • 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19

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

Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt leads magnificent music of the silver screen from epics including Gone with the Wind, The Magnificent 7, Dr. Zhivago, The Pink Panther, Rocky plus music from the James Bond movies and more

Tickets start at $18 adults, $5 students

PETER AND THE WOLF

  • 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25

Dan Heintzelman Fine Arts Center, 2587 Boulevard Dr. SW, Wyoming

Prokofiev’s story of Peter, a sneaky wolf, and Peter’s friends, a bird, a cat and a duck, will thrill and delight your little ones in this performance featuring the local dance collective 61Syx to bring street dance to Prokofiev’s well-known musical tale.

Tickets start at $15 adults, $5 students.

THE GLORY OF THE BAROQUE

  • 10 a.m. Friday, Coffee Classics
  • 8 p.m. Friday, Great Eras

St. Cecilia Music Center, 24 Ransom Ave. NE, Grand Rapids

Hear Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti and Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks all under conductor Julian Wachner, Artistic Director of the Grand Rapids Bach Festival.

Tickets start at $16 for the Coffee Classics concert

Tickets start at $26 adults, $5 studnets for the Great Eras series concert

  • Call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 or go online to GRSymphony.org

 

Pianist Jeffrey Kahane is soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22 with the Grand Rapids Symphony

Pianist Jeffrey Kahane is soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22 with the Grand Rapids Symphony /E. F. Marton Productions

Grand Rapids Symphony returns to DeVos Performance Hall on Jan. 10-11, 2020

Grand Rapids Symphony returns to DeVos Performance Hall on Jan. 10-11, 2020 /Terry Johnston | Grand Rapids Symphony

Dmitri Shostakovich was one of the most subversive composers in the history of music who lived to tell the tale.

Under orders from the communist regime to produce a piece commemorating a peasant uprising against Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Shostakovich composed his Symphony No. 11 “The Year 1905” to memorize the slaughter of more than 1,000 starving people by the palace guard.

The Soviet authorities were pleased with the work, premiered in 1957, that drew heavily on Russian folk melodies. But beneath the surface, the piece also was a searing indictment of the recent brutal suppression of an uprising in Hungary the year before against its community dictatorship.

“It’s really one of the most powerful pieces of music,” said conductor Peter Oundjian. “It’s one of my favorite pieces of music.”

The former Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will lead the Grand Rapids Symphony in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 on Friday and Saturday in DeVos Performance Hall, 115 years after the events of “Bloody Sunday” on Jan. 9, 1905.

Oundjian also will lead the Grand Rapids Symphony in Richard Strauss’ Serenade for Winds and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major for the concert titled Shostakovich and Mozart, the fifth concert of the 2019-20 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series.

Tickets, starting at $18 adults, $5 students, are available from the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 or online at GRSymphony.org.

“The program is really incredible,” said Oundjian who first guest conducted the Grand Rapids Symphony in January 2004.

Pianist Jeffrey Kahane, among the finest American interpreters of Mozart, will be soloist for the Grand Rapids Symphony’s first Classical series concerts of the new year.

“He’s really quite a special guy,” said Peter Oundjian, who has been a friend and collaborator with Kahane since their college days more than 40 years ago.

The first half of the concert is like “dream music,” said Oundjian, whose career in music began as first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet.

At its first performance in December 1786 in Vienna, the audience was so taken with the charming second movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22, they demanded an encore of it on the spot.

“It’s an optimistic, absolutely stunning piece of music,” Oundjian said.

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 recalled the events of series of worker strikes in St. Petersburg, Russia, that crippled the city during the winter of 1904-05. A priest led a huge procession of workers to the Winter Palace with a petition for Tsar Nicholas II. But the palace guard opened fire on the demonstrators and nearly 1,000 people were killed.

“It really tells the entire story of that particular day. Thousands of working-class people came to this square to beg the Tsar for food, for anything, and this tragedy happened, and they opened fire on them,” Oundjian said. “It’s unimaginably frightening.”

Shostakovich’s symphony, which is cinematic in scope, was composed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The Soviet authorities were pleased with the piece, which quoted Russian folk songs that were well known to the audience at its premiere in 1957. But beneath the surface, Shostakovich was calling out the communist regime, which brutally suppressed the 1956 Hungarian Uprising.

 “It’s like watching a movie,” he said. “It really tells the entire story of that particular day.”

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