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Quad-City Symphony closes out season

Piano soloist gets mid-concert ovation

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The highlight of the Quad-City Symphony Orchestra’s final concert of it 95th season was guest pianist Norman Krieger. His performance of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 23,” was magnificent.

Krieger was captivating from the first chords as his hands danced across the octaves in the highly recognizable opening theme, then moved to the impressive fast finger work on the solos, the gentle trills in the calmer, legato sections of the piece and his powerful and brisk ending that earned him a mid-concert standing ovation.

The extended solo toward the conclusion of the first movement was a real treat as it allowed Krieger to showcase his wide range of dynamic abilities in the technically demanding cadenza.

“Appalachian Spring,” which was quite appropriate considering the warm temperatures of late, opened calmly and simply with a pleasant melody you would expect to accompany scenes of rolling hills on a soundtrack. Such is the nature of the work composed by Aaron Copland, which never ceases to invoke images of life in an unspoiled countryside, with majestic beauty and pioneer spirit.

Copland won a Pulitzer Prize for “Appalachian Spring.” The piece originally was composed for a ballet that tells the story of a young couple, a preacher and his followers as the couple settles in the wilderness.

I particularly enjoyed the lightness the orchestra demonstrated in navigating the playful and brisk melodies throughout the piece. The folk melodies adapted for full orchestration were beautiful and charming, the most prominent being the Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts.”

Igor Stravinsky’s “Suite from The Firebird” also invoked images of the Russian fairy tales brought to life in the ballet it’s written for. It was easy to imagine an evil setting as the strings opened the piece with a low murmuring. That was followed shortly by the quick sounds of a chase, and later a conflict and battle as the strings and brass played furiously, accompanied by an occasional thundering drum beat. 

And as with all fairy tales, the brass leading the triumphant ending made it clear that they all lived happily ever after.

The piece truly stimulated the imagination as well as the ears and was a wonderful choice to close the season.


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