“Masterworks I: Into a New World” Presents Powerful Musical Selections Now Starring American Master Pianist André Watts

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

IA/IL QUAD-CITIES – This weekend, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra begins its 100th Season with Masterworks I: Into a New World, now starring celebrated American Master pianist André Watts. Watts has graciously agreed to take the stage in place of Garrick Ohlsson, who will not be able to perform due to health reasons.

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 performance by Watts, 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.”

Watts comes to the QCSO fresh from his stunning performance at the Houston Symphony to perform Rachmaninoff’s deeply romantic Piano Concerto No. 2.

About André Watts and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2

A much-honored artist who has played before royalty in Europe and heads of government worldwide, André Watts received a 2011 National Medal of Arts, given by the President of the United States to individuals who are deserving of special recognition for their outstanding contributions to the excellent, growth, support and availability of the arts.

In June 2006, he was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl of Fame to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his debut (with the Philadelphia Orchestra) and he is also the recipient of the 1988 Avery Fisher Prize. At age 26, Watts was the youngest person ever to receive an Honorary Doctorate from Yale University and he has since received numerous honors from highly respected schools, including the University of Pennsylvania, Brandeis University, the Juilliard School of Music and his Alma Mater, the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University.

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is a powerful, passionate work that music lovers will be sure to enjoy. Enduringly popular since its 1901 debut, the concerto’s themes have found fame in such movies as Brief Encounter, The Seven Year Itch and the popular song, “All by Myself.”

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

According to QCSO Executive Director Benjamin 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.