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items tagged with Quad City Symphony Orchestra

Foreshadowing the Season: The Quad City Symphony Premieres Michael Torke’s “Oracle”
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2013-09-17 18:43:02

Michael Torke. Photo by Brian Hainer.

In February, the Quad City Symphony contacted a representative of Michael Torke with the hope of commissioning a short season-opening piece from the well-known American composer. It was a long shot – a request with a turnaround time of a few months instead of the typical year or two between commissioning and the orchestra’s first rehearsal with the completed music.

But Torke was looking for a summer project, a short work to add to his library of titles. “I love those drop-everything-now projects,” Torke said in a phone interview in July. “The Quad City thing seemed perfect.” With the logistics in place, what remained was finding an appropriate artistic concept and completing the piece before rehearsals in September.

Oracle was composed in a burst of creative energy from mid-June to mid-July. “I think this is going to be one of the best pieces I’ve ever written,” Torke predicted the day after the five-minute composition was completed. “I am so jazzed up about it. It starts off with this kind of ‘Pines of Rome’ thing, with one variation of the melody warm and juicy, and another noble.”


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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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Straddling a Stylistic Gulf: The Quad City Symphony, March 9 at the Adler Theatre
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2013-03-17 23:09:53

With one foot on the familiar, sturdy dock of 19th Century Romanticism and the other in the precarious boat of innovative and demanding 20th Century Modernism, the Quad City Symphony was able in its March 9 concert to demonstrate diametrically different musical styles without drowning – but not without getting wet.

Without a guest soloist to share the stage and musical load, Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith and the Quad City Symphony showcased two iconic Russian pieces for virtuoso orchestra: Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Either piece by itself would have been considered a featured work, but together they were a grueling concerto for orchestra that required the musicians to perform as though each was a soloist.

Both compositions are musical depictions of works from other artistic disciplines: The Rite (a piece of Modernism first performed in 1913) accompanied an original story ballet, and Pictures (first composed in the late Romantic style period in 1874) described the subjects of paintings by Viktor Hartmann. Both composers used variations in orchestration, tempo, tonality, and melodic texture to differentiate the subject matter or plot of each painting or dance. But the orchestra struggled with the radically different use of these elements, and as a result the contrast between Romanticism and Modernism wasn’t always clearly demonstrated in the performance.


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Stravinsky’s “Rite” of Passage: The Quad City Symphony Performs “The Rite of Spring,” March 9 and 10
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2013-02-28 20:20:02

Igor StravinskyWithin seconds of the new ballet’s unusual musical beginning – a solo bassoon – the audience began hissing and making comments. As the music burst into unchanging pitches of repeated rhythmic patterns, the curtain opened with strangely costumed dancers stamping their feet in a pigeon-toed position. No traditional tutus and toe shoes here; they wore long-sleeved dresses, headbands, and cross-laced leggings into moccasin-type shoes.

Members of the audience, thinking they were being mocked, started throwing whatever they could grab at the dancers and orchestra. Other audience members tried to stop, or at least restrain, the angry protesters by beating them with canes, hats, and coats, or shouting them down. The uproar became so loud that the dancers were unable to hear the orchestra. Disgusted by the fracas, the composer left his seat for the backstage wings, where the choreographer was calling out the rhythmic counts for the on-stage dancers.

After roughly 40 of the worst offenders were extricated by ushers and management, order was finally restored midway through the performance, and the remainder of the ballet was presented to an attentive though stunned audience.

At the conclusion, the response was mixed: Some were outraged by the raw music and unconventional choreography, but others gave the performers and composer several curtain calls and were intrigued by how, with his music, Igor Stravinsky could resolve the contradiction between a modern symphony orchestra and scenes of ancient tribal rituals. And it was how he solved the problem that changed music history.

It was May 1913, and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring: Scenes of Pagan Russia was being debuted at the month-old Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. The near-riot was perhaps appropriate for a piece that revolutionized musical thinking, elevated rhythm to its own art form, and stands as arguably the most important composition of the 20th Century. Now, 100 years later, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra will perform The Rite at its March concerts.


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