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items tagged with Mark Russell Smith

Managing Mahler Magnificently: The Quad City Symphony, April 5 at the Adler Theatre
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2014-04-11 15:32:13

From an Adler Theatre stage filled with more than 200 musicians, the Quad City Symphony forcefully premiered Gustav Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 3 on April 5. Moving from the dissonance of uncertainty to the transcendental climatic moments of harmonic resolution, the concert was abundant in gravitas, contrasts, and drama that revealed a thorough artistic vision from Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith and included a valuable collaborative process with other area musical organizations.


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A Fine “Line” Over Rough Spots: The QC Symphony, March 8 at the Adler Theatre
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2014-03-18 14:04:14

The Quad City Symphony’s March 8 concert featured symphonies from a pair of big names, but the shortest piece on the program – the world premiere of local composer Jacob Bancks’ Rock Island Line – stole the show.

The broad, moving lyricism of Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 illustrated what the orchestra does well, while Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 revealed the Quad City Symphony’s continuing struggle with rhythmic precision.

Yet they were eclipsed by the triumphant debut that opened the concert. Rock Island Line was the highlight of the evening at the Adler Theatre – an energized, complex, and entertaining performance that brought Bancks’ vivid piece to life in ways I wasn’t expecting.


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Steps Forward and Back: The Quad City Symphony’s Season Opener
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2013-10-15 18:17:29

The first Masterworks concert of the Quad City Symphony’s 99th season was a checkerboard of strengths and weaknesses. Huge, transcendent moments filled the Adler Theatre in the October 5 concert, but when things got quiet, discrepancies in tone color, balance, and rhythm appeared.

Under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith, the orchestra explored four diverse approaches to composition in reverse chronological order. Commissioned by the Quad City Symphony, the world premiere of American composer Michael Torke’s Oracle opened the program, followed by fellow countryman Aaron Jay Kernis’ Musica Celestis, featuring only the strings. The mid-20th Century’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, by British composer Benjamin Britten – with humorous narration by local media personality Don Wooten – completed the first half. After intermission, pianist Jonathan Biss joined the orchestra for Johannes Brahms’ Concerto for Piano No. 1.

The concert was an elegantly designed program that included a variety of contemporary works balanced by a classic masterpiece, but – except for Torke – it was not a good selection of music for this orchestra. In the tutti sections, when all the instruments were played, the mixture of timbre was profuse. Yet as the scoring broke down into smaller instrumental combinations, the differences in individual colors became more problematic. The result was tonal incompatibility both among the same instruments and between instrumental families.


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Calculated Risks Mean a Bold Departure for Quad City Symphony Season
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2013-08-21 11:20:03

With its adventurous selection of 20th and 21st Century American music along with a broader sampling from the standard repertoire, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming season represents a sharp contrast from its most recent one. Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith said in a phone interview that the challenge was “finding the right balance between the familiar and unfamiliar.”

He has succeeded in both selection and placement. The award-winning contemporary American music has been sprinkled among stalwart European masters, resulting in imaginatively diverse, bold programming spanning 250 years in the six Masterworks concerts.

This year, the orchestra will present works by American composers in four of the six programs and feature two world premieres of music commissioned by the Quad City Symphony organization. “This is what I like in a season,” Smith explained. “Giving composers a forum for their work” and providing a “variety, and that’s what the audience likes.”


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Fighting Fate Through Music: The Quad City Symphony, April 13 at the Adler Theatre
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2013-04-22 18:25:26

Pyotr Tchaikovsky said his Fourth Symphony was about fate, and even used a “fate motif” – a recurring musical representation of a central programmatic idea – as an autobiographical statement. The topic was deeply personal, as he considered homosexuality his destiny.

In correspondence with his patroness, Tchaikovsky wrote in code about his struggle with his “condition,” calling it his “fate, the fatal power which prevents one from attaining the goal of happiness.”

This intensity of internal conflict represented in the music elevated his fourth symphony from his first three and created a model for his next two. Tchaikovsky’s torment and his longing to find happiness were resonantly brought to life in a searing, tender, and ultimately triumphant performance by the Quad City Symphony Orchestra and Musical Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith on April 13 at the Adler Theatre.


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