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Finding the Big Picture in the Details: The QC Symphony, December 7 at the Adler Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 10:23

Through the thick melodic honey of Russian Romanticism and the ever-changing musical illusions of a contemporary American composition, the Quad City Symphony on December 7 fashioned a successful concert from two divergent approaches to lyricism. Although the symphony occasionally blurred the differences between melodies and their accompaniments, they achieved resplendent moments of uplifting splendor in both pieces.

The program paired Jennifer Higdon’s imaginative, three-movement Violin Concerto – which won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize – with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s profusely tuneful Symphony No. 2. Separated by a century of musical development, these works feature vast differences in compositional technique and tonality: Rachmaninoff worked in the customary symphonic form while Higdon writes improvisationally, and Rachmaninoff used traditional harmonic structure while Higdon employs a variety of tonal systems developed during the 20th Century.

But they are similar in using lyricism or songfulness as the primary means of self-expression. Consequently, in both cases, the artistic challenge for the Quad City Symphony was the same: to emphasize, with dynamics and stylistic nuances, melodic and motivic fragments and differentiate them from background sounds and accompaniment – a task the orchestra and its guest conductor struggled with in the first movement of Rachmaninoff and throughout Higdon.

 
Photos from the Pokey LaFarge Concert, December 8 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Matt Erickson   
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 11:31

Photos from the Pokey LaFarge concert at the Redstone Room on December 8, 2013. For more work by Matt Erickson, visit MRE-Photography.com.

Photo by Matt Erickson, MRE-Photography.com

 
Try to Keep Up: Müscle Wörship, December 16 at Bier Stube PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 10 December 2013 11:25

Müscle Wörship. Photo by Jonathan Van Dine.

There’s a perfectly practical reason the Kansas-based band Müscle Wörship uses umlauts in its name – to protect people who would rather not know about a particular sexual fetish. So a word of advice to those folks: Don’t do an online search for the band without those umlauts!

But the combination of a somewhat-deviant punk-ish name and those metal dots (à la Motörhead) makes musical sense, too, as Müscle Wörship lives in the cracks between styles. There’s the lean aggression of punk, the experimental complexity of post-punk, the general heaviness of metal, extensive use of the tremolo bar that sometimes recalls the signature guitar sounds of both My Bloody Valentine and Neil Young, alternative tunings that bring to mind Sonic Youth, a grunge-y emphasis on hooks and distorted melody, and even hints of emo in the vocals.

The magic is that – on Müscle Wörship’s self-titled debut album from earlier this year – those disparate elements have been combined in a way that, against all odds, is nearly monolithic: 32 furious minutes of great and nearly great infectious hard rock. (And just to be clear: The whole record is 32 minutes.) The group’s music has three very different methods of persuasion – forceful enough to grab you by the throat, accessible enough to suck you in, and intricate enough to get lost in. In that sense, the name is wholly appropriate: This is music that’s all beautifully sculpted muscle.

 
An Arrangement for Everybody: Quad City Arts Visiting Artists Destino, December 15 at the First Presbyterian Church of Davenport PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Thursday, 05 December 2013 10:24

DestinoSinger Joey Niceforo, the founder and frontman for the musical quartet Destino, first met two of his group’s other members – violinist Rosemary Siemens and pianist Roy Tan – when all three were active in the operatic ensemble The Canadian Tenors in 2006. The fourth member, tenor Terance Reddick, joined Destino two years later, and initially auditioned for the group by singing opera over the phone.

Yet if you plan on seeing these Quad City Arts visiting artists in their December 15 area concert, don’t expect a program composed solely of arias and cadenzas. It’s not every ensemble, after all, that can boast a repertoire ranging from “Ave Maria” to the Beatles’ “Yesterday” to Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.”

 
Compelling Mystery: The QC Symphony Performs Jennifer Higdon’s Bewildering, Beautiful “Violin Concerto” PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Friday, 29 November 2013 05:09

Jennifer Higdon. Photo by J.D. Scott.Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto unfolds as a slow burn with flickering, firefly-like tones, then straps you into a sonic roller coaster, corkscrewing through ever-changing musical images. When you have experienced the sublime disorderliness of Higdon’s concerto, it seems miraculous that it ultimately makes sense; you have experienced something that was perceivable if not completely comprehensible.

The winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music, Higdon’s concerto could be bewildering for audiences at the Quad City Symphony’s December 7 and 8 concerts, with its copious, fast-changing variations of instrumental combinations and dynamics: violin harmonics with small finger cymbals, tingling high woodwinds with low, growling cellos and basses, sudden changes in volume, and constantly contrasting textures of sound. The musical events might seem random at first, but somewhere in your brain, you should be able to recognize and reorganize them enough to get a sense of Higdon’s complex yet stunningly accessible musical thinking.

 
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