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Conversations with creators and organizers of the arts scene in West Michigan, hosted by Cara Lieurance

Kuerti opens Kalamazoo Symphony season with a symphony that takes him back to his childhood

John A. Lacko
Julian Kuerti, music director of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
Rihab Chaieb © Fay Fox...jpg
Fay Fox
Mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb

When he was around 5 years old, Julian Kuerti listened every day to an LP of the Berlin Philharmonic led by Herbert von Karajan of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. At the time the music enthralled him with its emotive, dramatic, anguished sweep. Now he’ll conduct the work himself in the season-opening concert of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.

Kuerti and Cara Lieurance discuss the history behind the work, which Tchaikovsky wrote after a disastrous marriage he thought might “cure” his homosexuality. His meaningful correspondence with patron Nadezhda von Meck, to whom he wrote soul-baring letters, helped him finish the symphony, says Kuerti. Today it is regarded as one of his greatest works.

james-lee-iii - PC Todd Rosenberg.jpg
Todd Rosenberg
Composer James Lee III

Behind the ephemeral sound of Ravel’s music is a mind that puts parts together like it's solving satisfying puzzles, says Kuerti of
Shéhérazade. These are three song settings of poetry by his friend Tristan Klingsor, who dreamed up exotic Asian locales and characters in the poems. Mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb will visit from Toronto for the performance, where she is currently starring in a production of Carmen.

The program opens with a new work by Michigan-based composer James Lee III called Emotive Transformations. Kuerti says it describes stages of coming to terms with the death of his father, but Lee's music is not what you would expect.

Cara Lieurance covers local music with live morning interviews, and produces WMUK's Let's Hear It weekday mornings at 10 am Mon-Fri, showcasing local interviews and performances. She also produces The Pure Drop, an hour of Celtic music, with musician Dave Marlatt.
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