“Masterworks I: Into a New World” Presents Powerful Musical Selections

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

IA/IL QUAD-CITIES – The Quad City Symphony Orchestra (QCSO) celebrates its century of orchestral music with the return of celebrated American Master pianist Garrick Ohlsson, performing what may be the most challenging concerto for piano – Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. His performance is just one of the highlights of a musical presentation entitled Masterworks I: Into a New World.

Masterworks I: Into a New World will be held 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 4 at the Adler Theatre, Davenport, IA, and 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 5 at Centennial Hall, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL. QCSO Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith will lead the orchestra. In addition to the Third Piano Concerto, the evening will include a world premiere composition by John Frantzen entitled “Beyond a Wild Dream,” as well as Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony.

“We choose the pieces for the first Masterworks performance of our 100th Season to be powerful, energetic and exhilarating,” said Smith. “This will be a performance that audience members will remember for years to come.”

Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto – Hard to Play, Easy to Love

Masterworks I will be Garrick Ohlsson’s fourth performance with the QCSO. He last appeared with the Symphony in 1989. Ohlsson launched his career in 1970 when he became the first American to win the International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition. He is an Avery Fisher Prize laureate, placing him alongside such luminaries as Midori and Yo-Yo Ma, and a Grammy Award winner for his recording of Beethoven’s Sonatas.

According to QCSO Executive Director Benjamin Loeb, Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto is a beautiful but monstrously difficult work for most pianists to play. “The piece requires large stretches of the hand, as well as tremendous energy,” he said. “Garrick Ohlsson is a powerful musician, well-suited to playing the Third Piano Concerto. He can perform this composition with ease and majesty. He holds sovereign control over this piece.”

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. The early influence of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and other Russian composers gave his work a rich, expressive personal style. The Third Piano Concerto was first performed in public on Nov. 28, 1909 by Rachmaninoff himself. It was not until the 1930s that the Third Piano Concerto became popular, thanks largely to the advocacy of famed pianist Vladimir Horowitz.

Frantzen’s “Beyond a Wild Dream” – An Energetic World Premiere

According to Loeb, the 2014-2015 Masterworks series will present the world premieres of five compositions. Masterworks I: Into a New World will offer the first premiere: “Beyond a Wild Dream” by John Frantzen, who grew up in Maquoketa, Iowa. “We are proud to be able to present a colorful, energetic composition by Frantzen,” said Loeb. “Creators of symphonic music can come from any part of the globe – and they can be local, too. In addition to Frantzen, we also work with composers who are instructors at Augustana College and St. Ambrose University.”

John Frantzen now lives in Los Angeles, where he writes music in all genres including concert, chamber, dance, sound installations and film. He has collaborated with artists from around the world, including a recent sound installation created for his sister Rose Frantzen’s art exhibit at Davenport’s Figge Museum.

“In writing ‘Beyond a Wild Dream’ for the Quad City Symphony Orchestra,” Frantzen said, “I did some research to see what it would have been like to attend the very first symphony performance in the Quad-Cities – or Tri-Cities, as it was called 100 years ago. That performance included passionate works by Tchaikovsky and Wagner, among others. At that time, it was a wild dream to start an orchestra in the Tri-Cities, but still, citizens felt the need to support the arts in the community, no matter how big or small. My composition pays homage to that noble spirit.”

Frantzen’s musical career began when he was a student in Maquoketa, playing trombone for the school bands. During those years, he placed second in a national song-writing competition. “I loved being part of the band,” he said, “and realized I had a passion to create. That made me want to become a composer.” He received a full scholarship to Arizona State University as a trombonist and later completed a masters in composition at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. This development led to the successful career he is having today.

Dvořák’s “From the New World” – Inspired by a Trip to America

The final piece of the evening comes from composer Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), a citizen of what is now the Czech Republic. He was noted for his skill in turning folk material into the language of 19th-century Romantic music. In 1892, he accepted the post of Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York.

During his three years in the United States, Dvořák traveled as far west as Iowa. His trip to America proved to be inspiring and productive. It led him to create the piece that widely became regarded as his signature work: the four-movement Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World,” also known as “The New World Symphony.”

“We chose the New World Symphony because it is one of the most beloved pieces in the QCSO repertoire,” said Loeb. “It is a lively, colorful composition that has been very popular with our patrons in the past, and its great energy makes it a perfect companion for the other musical selections.”

Quad City Symphony Orchestra tickets are available at the QCSO box office at 327 Brady St., Davenport, IA. You can also call the QCSO at (563) 322-7276 or visit www.qcso.org. For more information on future offerings from QCSO, be sure to download the full 100th Season brochure at www.qcso.org/calendar.html.