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items tagged with Quad City Symphony

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.


Read More About Straddling A Stylistic Gulf: The Quad City Symphony, March 9 At The Adler Theatre...


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.


Read More About Stravinsky’S “Rite” Of Passage: The Quad City Symphony Performs “The Rite Of Spring,” March 9 And 10...


A Musical Mismatch: The Quad City Symphony Orchestra, February 9 at the Adler Theatre
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2013-02-15 19:12:05

Five by Design

We do silly things for love. This must be one of them.

In what Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith termed a “fun experiment” at his February 7 “Inside the Music” lecture, the Quad City Symphony, for its “Valentine’s Day” Masterworks concerts, replaced classical-music repertoire for half of the program with tunes from the 1940s sung by a five-member swing group. Last year, we got Scheherazade; this year, we got the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

The orchestra was the opening act, performing Berlioz’s arrangement of Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz” from Swan Lake. During the second half, the orchestra served as backup band for vocal group Five by Design, which performed a variety of old-time pop selections including, among others, “Night & Day,” “Begin the Beguine,” “The Trolley Song,” “Mairzy Doats,” and “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

I enjoy all kinds of music, and symphony orchestras have long attempted to attract new audiences by blending popular and classical music in their Pops concerts. Simply put, the swing music on the February program belonged in a Pops concert, and it diminished the Quad City Symphony's Masterworks series – whose traditional forms and repertoire are my balms against the temporal superficiality of what Mahler called “a garish world.”

The musical mismatch in conception was exacerbated in the February 9 Adler Theatre concert by the artistic disparity between the orchestra and vocal group, both in technical execution and ability to evoke an emotional response. Even judged only in its genre, Five by Design could not match the performance standard of the orchestra.


Read More About A Musical Mismatch: The Quad City Symphony Orchestra, February 9 At The Adler Theatre...


Turning an Appetizer Into a Meal: The Quad City Symphony, December 1 at the Adler Theatre
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2012-12-12 15:19:09

It should have been only a sampling – a taste of love, lust, delusions of grandeur, and jocular deception – but the Quad City Symphony on December 1 delivered a fast-paced, funny, and fully satisfying performance of Act III of Guiseppe Verdi’s opera Falstaff.

Last season, the Quad City Symphony’s Der Rosenkavalier excerpt was plagued by balance problems between the singers and orchestra and by dramatic incoherence – with neither a translation of the German libretto nor an explanation of the plot.

This year, Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith got it right logistically, educationally, and musically. Smith moved the instrumentalists upstage, opening up a large area in front of the orchestra that put the principal singers closer to the audience. The cast members had more room to move and act, sharpening the differences between their characters.

Even though the 30-plus members of Jon Hurty’s Quad City Choral Arts sat behind the orchestra, far from the dramatic action, the location made their sound appropriately ethereal when they took on the roles of sprites, nymphs, spirits, and ghostly apparitions.

The changes of staging also improved the balance between the singers and the orchestra. From its upstage position, the orchestra was easily heard yet never overwhelmed the singers.


Read More About Turning An Appetizer Into A Meal: The Quad City Symphony, December 1 At The Adler Theatre...





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