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items tagged with Mark Russell Smith

An Unparalleled Experience: The Quad City Symphony with Yo-Yo Ma, May 14 at the Adler Theatre
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2015-05-21 17:49:30

Yo-Yo MaListening wasn’t enough. You had to be there to take it all in.

As one of the world’s leading musicians, cellist Yo-Yo Ma is renowned for his compelling tone, masterful technique, and convincing musical storytelling. But on May 14 at the Adler Theatre with the Quad City Symphony, he demonstrated a key element that could only be experienced in the live performance: body language.

The special centennial-season concert was unparalleled for its depth of expression, precision playing, and warm sensitivity, especially in the second-half performance of Antonín Dvořák’s Concerto in B Minor for Cello & Orchestra with Ma. And when the spotlight shone on the Quad City Sympony in the first half, the orchestra flexed its considerable dynamic and melodic muscles in no-holds-barred performances of Johannes Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s tuneful Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture, creating stark moments of volcanic intensity and radiant melodic shaping.


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A Fitting Exclamation Point: The Quad City Symphony, April 11 at the Adler Theatre
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2015-04-21 19:17:13

The closing Masterworks concerts of the Quad City Symphony’s centennial season included a commission meant as a prelude leading, without pause, into Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. I was skeptical. The Choral symphony – one of the greatest compositions in music – was a logical conclusion for a season-long celebration of 100 years, but attaching contemporary music to it raised two questions: What could the new music possibly add, and would it diminish Beethoven’s towering work?

Yet James Stephenson’s A-ccord worked on several levels April 11 at the Adler Theatre. It successfully connected Beethoven to 21st Century musical thinking. More importantly, it neatly summarized the rigor and thoughtfulness of Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith’s highly symbolic program – which presented a unified message bridging time, style, and language, and ceded the spotlight to guest vocalists as the Quad City Symphony closed its milestone season.

A-ccord brought all that together, featuring both voices and instruments, placing an English translation of Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode” (a component, in German, of the Ninth Symphony) alongside words from Quad Cities poet Dick Stahl, and treating Beethoven’s source material in a contemporary way, with an innovative use of a single melodic line with rhythmic and orchestral variations.


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Keys to the Kingdom: The Quad City Symphony, February 7 at the Adler Theatre
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2015-02-13 19:43:42

The pieces in the Quad City Symphony’s fourth Masterworks concerts of the season would seem to have little in common: modern post-minimalism, a Mozart concerto, and a symphony rooted in religious faith. Yet in different ways, the presentation of each piece on February 7 unlocked the music.

Revisiting Michael Torke’s Quad City Symphony-commissioned Oracle, the orchestra reached a comfort level with the composition that brought to light new facets through a sparkling, seasoned performance. Demarre McGill, principal flutist with the Dallas Symphony, redefined his instrument as muscular yet supple in an imaginative treatment of Mozart’s Concerto No. 1 for Flute & Orchestra. And the highlight of the program was a towering performance of Anton Bruckner’s epic Symphony No. 4: Romantic, aided significantly by introductory comments that framed it in the context of the composer’s life.


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Illuminating a Musical Masterpiece: The Quad City Symphony, December 6 at the Adler Theatre
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2014-12-17 19:37:38

In its December 6 concert, the Quad City Symphony checked off three important boxes – things every orchestra should strive for.

It included contemporary American music, in this case a world premiere from a local composer in University of Iowa professor David Gompper’s impenetrably obscure Sunburst.

It illustrated the role of the sensitive accompanist, showcasing six of the symphony’s own members in three pieces.

And finally and most impressively, it ignited and illuminated a musical masterpiece with sizzling passion and a refined artistic vision: The cohesive and insightful artistic ideas of Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith joined with the orchestra’s unrestrained musical abandonment in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s masterful Symphony No. 40.


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A Helping Hand Through Difficult Music: The Quad City Symphony, November 1 at the Adler Theatre
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2014-11-07 20:36:55

With the premiere of a nebulous, esoteric piece and a dark, densely sobering Brahms concerto behind him, Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith picked up the microphone to address the audience before the second half of the Quad City Symphony’s November 1 concert at the Adler.

The audience was likely looking for some emotional relief, but Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique symphony loomed, with its morose “Finale” – creating the potential for a depressing albeit well-performed concert.

Smith set an optimistic tone. He called the Pathetique “Tchaikovsky’s greatest symphony” – pointing out the “life lived” through this music and focusing attention on its innovations.

His words were the right message at the right time. In framing the concert’s centerpiece, Smith helped pull the audience through the performance, allowing it to appreciate the trio of challenging pieces without getting sucked under by bleakness.


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