Theme from ‘Somewhere in Time’ Highlights Grand Rapids Symphony Concerts October 7th and 8th

When Sergei Rachmaninoff composed his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, a set of 24 variations for solo piano and orchestra, the Russian composer knew the 18th variation would be a big hit.

He couldn’t have known that more than 40 years later, the melody would set the scene for the tragic love story, Somewhere in Time, a time-traveling romance starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, filmed at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in 1979.

The work that brought together a contemporary Chicago playwright and an English actress of yesteryear did the same for South Korean-born pianist Joyce Yang and her American husband.

In 2013, the Silver Medalist at the 2005 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition met Richard Cassarino, assistant principal bassist of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, when she was in Birmingham for a solo appearance with the orchestra to play Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

The couple were married this past August.

“Blame it on Rachmaninoff,” Yang said with a laugh to ArtsBHAM last fall.

Somewhere in Time happens to be a favorite movie of Grand Rapids Symphony’s new Music Director Marcelo Lehninger. But guest conductor Perry So will be on the podium to lead the second concerts of the 2016-17 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series at 8pm on Friday and Saturday, October 7th and 8th, in DeVos Performance Hall.

Lehninger will be in town later in October to lead the Grand Rapids Symphony in another work by Rachmaninoff, his Symphony No. 2, on October 28th and 29th.

Music from Eastern Europe will be on Grand Rapids Symphony’s programs October 7th and 8th including Antonín Dvořák’s Carnival Overture and Bedřich Smetana’s Overture to The Bartered Bride.

Joyce Yang was just 19 years old and the youngest contestant at the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition when she took home the Silver Medal plus two additional awards: the Steven De Groote Memorial Award for Best Performance of Chamber Music, and the Beverley Taylor Smith Award for Best Performance of a New Work.

“A competition will get you in the best shape imaginable,” Yang said told ArtsBHAM in October 2015. “It’s like getting ready for a marathon. It’s a huge amount of pressure, but you’re gaining something, and it’s great exposure. If you go there to win, you’re going to be disappointed. You just have to play for a whole new audience and one jury member might say, ‘I love that contestant,’ and it will open new doors.”

Those doors led to an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2010; a debut CD for Avie Records; and recitals in top concert halls and engagements with orchestras including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the United States, and internationally with orchestras including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Australia and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Canada.

Earlier this year, Yang gave five performances of Manuel de Falla’s “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” with New York Philharmonia.

Perry So, who made his debut with the Grand Rapids Symphony in March, returns DeVos Hall to lead the orchestra in music including Witold Lutosławski Concerto for Orchestra.

The Polish composer, born on the eve of World War I, lived a turbulent life in turbulent times. His father was murdered just before going on trial in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. His brother died in a Siberian labor camp in the early days of World War II. Lutosławski, who was born in 1913, was captured during the war but escaped from the Germans. After the war he played piano in cafes in Warsaw. In 1954, during an era of Soviet oppression of Polish culture, Lutosławski composed his Concerto for Orchestra using Polish folk melodies to create a virtuosic yet accessible work for the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra.

A native of Hong Kong, who graduated from Yale University, Perry So’s career has included tours with the New Zealand Symphony and the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. With the Zagreb Philharmonic, he conducted a historic series of concerts in capitals of the ex-Yugoslav countries.

So led the Hong Kong Philharmonic with pianist Lang Lang in an internationally televised celebration of the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, and he has made multiple appearances at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Guest artist sponsor is the Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

  • Upbeat, a free, pre-concert, multi-media presentation will be held before each performance at 7pm in the DeVos Place Recital Hall. Upbeat is sponsored by BDO USA.
  • The Grand Rapids Symphony this season has introduced a special cocktail for its audiences in DeVos Performance Hall. At every concert in the 2016-17 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series, try a “Spirit of the Symphony,” also called a French 75.
  • The complete Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Variations program will be rebroadcast on March 12, 2017, at 1pm, on Blue Lake Public Radio 88.9 FM or 90.3 FM.


Tickets start at $18 and are available at the GRS ticket office, weekdays 9am to 5pm, at 300 Ottawa Ave. 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 at the DeVos Place box office, weekdays 10am to 6pm or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at

Full-time students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the GRS Student Passport program. This is a MySymphony360 eligible concert.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet and sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which returns in March 2017.