Under the leadership of Music Director David Lockington, the Grand Rapids Symphony has achieved new heights of artistic excellence and greater acclaim: four-star ratings by The Grand Rapids Press, a Grammy-nominated performance with hip-harpist Deborah Henson Conant, the orchestra’s 2005 debut at Carnegie Hall and innovative diversity, education and inclusion initiatives. Lockington will conduct his last concerts in the role on Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9, 8:00 p.m. at DeVos Performance Hall as a part of the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series. The singular work featured in “David’s Grand Finale” will be Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection.”
Since the beginning of David Lockington’s tenure as GRS Music Director, the orchestra has played one major work by Mahler annually. The composer’s second symphony, “Resurrection,” was the composer’s first major work that established his lifelong meditation on the universal themes of life, death and human fate. The piece is also one of Lockington’s favorite works. The Grand Rapids Symphony has completed a full cycle of Mahler’s nine symphonies over Lockington’s tenure, making Mahler’s “Resurrection” a fitting and spectacular end to his final season.
Mahler’s second symphony is an elaborate work with a gargantuan orchestra, choir, organ, church bells, an offstage brass ensemble and a massive battery of percussion. According to Mahler’s own program notes, the first movement is intended to represent the death of the hero in his first symphony: “…it is the hero of my First Symphony that I am burying here and whose life I am gathering up in a clear mirror…At the same time is the great questions: Why have you lived? Why have you suffered? Is all this merely a great, horrible jest? We must resolve these questions somehow or other, if we are to go on living.”
To answer these questions, the second movement is a gentle, old-fashioned dance of lilting grace, representing long-forgotten pleasure, followed by a grotesque waltz for the third movement shot through with earsplitting chords to astonishing effect. The fourth movement serves as an introduction to the finale with a child’s song, wistfully longing for relief from life’s burdens.
With the colossal fifth and final movement, Mahler introduced sounds and effects never before used in symphonic music to depict the last judgment and resurrection, resulting in one of the most powerful climaxes in classical music. In Mahler’s own words, “The earth quakes, the graves burst open, the dead arise and stream on in endless procession. The trumpets of the apocalypse ring out. All is quiet and blissful. There is no judgment, no sinners, no just men, no great and no small; there is no punishment and no reward. A feeling of overwhelming love fills us with blissful knowledge and illuminates our existence.”
Upbeat, a free pre-concert multi-media presentation, will be hosted in the Recital Hall before each performance at 7:00 p.m. Upbeat is sponsored by BDO USA. “David’s Grand Finale” will be rebroadcast on Sunday, June 14 at 1:00 p.m. on Blue Lake Public Radio, FM 88.9 or FM 90.3.
“David’s Grand Finale” is sponsored by Warner Norcross & Judd. The guest artists for this concert are supported by the Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.
Tickets start at $18 and are available at the Symphony office, weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 300 Ottawa NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.) Tickets are available by phone in the evening and on Saturday by calling 616.885.1241. Tickets are available at the DeVos Place Box Office, weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets may also be purchased through Ticketmaster, 800.982.2787, online at GRSymphony.org or in person at Ticketmaster outlets: select D&W Fresh Markets, Family Fare Stores and Walmart. Tickets purchased at these locations will include a Ticketmaster service fee. Full-time students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the Symphony’s Student Passport program. This is a MySymphony360 eligible concert.