The Rapidian

Grand Rapids Symphony's Marcelo Lehninger's mother, pianist Sonia Goulart, joins orchestra for Chopin and Brahms

Brazilian pianist Sonia Goulart joins her son, Marcelo Lehninger, for Grand Rapids Symphony season finale with Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2, Brahms' Symphony No. 2
Brazilian pianist Sonia Goulart joins Grand Rapids Symphony, May 17-18, to play Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2

Brazilian pianist Sonia Goulart joins Grand Rapids Symphony, May 17-18, to play Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 /Courtesy photo

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Coming to the Grand Rapids Symphony's Picnic Pops

Here's the lineup for the 25th anniversary season of the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops at Cannonsburg Ski Area

Classical Fireworks: Salute to America

Classical Mystery Tour: 50 Years of The Beatles’ White Album

Dancing in the Streets: The Music of Motown

Nashville: The Songwriters. Their Stories. The Symphony starring the Music City Hit-Makers

Single tickets for lawn seats start at $20 adults, $5 students age 2-18, in advance. All tickets are $5 more the day of the show. 

Call (616) 454-9451 or go online to GRSymphony.org for more options.

Born into a prominent musical family in Brazil, Marcelo Lehninger welcomes his mother, Sonia Goulart, to Grand Rapids Symphony.

Born into a prominent musical family in Brazil, Marcelo Lehninger welcomes his mother, Sonia Goulart, to Grand Rapids Symphony. /Courtesy Photo

Brazilian pianist Sonia Goulart makers her Midwest debut for Grand Rapids Symphony season finale, May 17-18..

Brazilian pianist Sonia Goulart makers her Midwest debut for Grand Rapids Symphony season finale, May 17-18.. /Courtesy Photo

Some pregnant women will make a special effort to listen to classical music in hopes of inducing the “Mozart Effect” on their child-to-be. All Sonia Goulart had to do was go about her normal daily life.

The Brazilian pianist taught music, rehearsed, and played recitals and concerts throughout her pregnancy prior to giving birth to Grand Rapids Symphony Music Director Marcelo Lehninger.

In fact, the final piece Goulart performed in public near the end of her pregnancy with Lehninger was Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

“One of the best moments in my life was to go onstage eight months pregnant with my son,” Goulart said in a 2014 interview with the Ventura County Star in California prior to a similar performance five years ago.

Marcelo and mom will be together again for a performance of Chopin’s brilliant F minor piano concerto on Friday and Saturday in Grand Rapids. Only this time, Goulart will be at the piano, but Lehninger will be on the podium for the concert in DeVos Performance Hall.

“It’s a very special program – for me,” Lehninger said. “I’m very happy my mom is coming here as soloist.”

The final concert of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 2018-19 season welcomes Goulart to DeVos Performance Hall to play Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F minor.

The concert titled Chopin and Brahms also features Lehninger leading the orchestra in Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 2. The sunny, bucolic work, the composer’s personal favorite among his four symphonies, was inspired by a summer vacation spent along the shores of a beautiful lake in Austria.

Concerts at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, open with the Grand Rapids Symphony performing Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, a colorful and playful set of five pieces all inspired by fairy tales from Tales of Mother Goose.

Tickets for Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series concert, starting at $18 adults, $5 students, are available at the Grand Rapids Symphony ticket office without additional fees or charges. Call (616) 454-9451 or go online to GRSymphony.org. Tickets also are available at the door or at Ticketmaster outlets for an additional charge.

Lehninger, who was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, the second-largest metropolitan area in Brazil, grew up on a musical family. His father, violinist Erich Lehninger, a German, formerly was concertmaster of Brazil’s most important orchestra, the Sao Paulo State Symphony, the most populous city in Brazil.

Marcelo Lehninger grew up playing both violin and piano. Over time, violin gave way to piano, and piano gave way to conducting. But he has performed with his parents onstage as both musician and conductor, mostly in South America.

When Lehninger served as music director of the New West Symphony near Los Angeles for four seasons from 2012-13 through 2015-16, he conducted Goulart in a performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in April 2014.

Goulart’s career has flourished in South American and Europe, where she earned her doctoral degree in music from the Staatlich Hochschule fur Musik und Theatre in Hanover, Germany. She is a winner of more than 30 national and international prizes, including First Prize in the Frankfurt Television Competition in Germany, and the Rencontres Musicales Internationales Award in Brussels, Belgium.

“She’s had a very important career, though mainly in Europe,” Lehninger said.

Goulart, who has been compared with such artists as Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha and Argentinean pianist Martha Argerich, has performed in sold-out halls across the Americas and across Europe from Spain to Austria. Next season, she has concert tours in France and Belgium as well as in Brazil and Uruguay.

“It’s always an emotional experience when I perform with her,” he said. “I think it’ll really be a treat for the audience, too.”

Polish-born pianist Frédéric Chopin has gone down in history, not only as one of the greatest composers of all time, but as one of the greatest pianists who ever lived. Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F minor, one of only two piano concertos he composed, was a piece he wrote for himself, at age 19, to display his ample artistry. Ever since its premiere in 1829, pianists have been doing the same with it.

The 30-minute work, which puts the piano on prominent display, is a work that Goulart most often performs with orchestra.

“It’s one of her signature pieces,” Lehninger said.

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