REVIEW: Grand Rapids Symphony brings visuals to music with ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’

Stefan Jackiw

“Pictures at an Exhibition” is a musical tour through a collection of paintings, drawings and sketches, including scenes from a bustling marketplace, a witch from Slavic folklore, the catacombs of Paris, and more.

When Modest Mussorgsky composed the piece in 1874, he intended to memorialize his friend and fellow artist by translating his images into sound.

The Grand Rapids Symphony presented a visually stimulating performance of the work Friday night, bringing the “Pictures” to life as though paint was still drying on a canvas. Music Director Marcelo Lehninger led the concert in his final appearance with the orchestra this season.

To end the first half, soloist Stefan Jackiw gave a passionate and fearless performance of Korngold’s “Violin Concerto in D Major.” Jackiw is best known for his appearance with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in 2011. His silvery tone soared as the Symphony supplemented with plush melodies and gauzy harmonies. Korngold is best known for his pioneering Hollywood film scores, and this dramatic flair fully manifested during the flamboyant final movement.

The audience enthusiastically received Jackiw (including applause after the first movement) and he obliged with an encore featuring Bach’s Violin Sonata No.3, Largo.
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