Known for creating the music to West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein’s career as a composer and conductor stretched far beyond the feuding Jets and Sharks, spanning nearly 50 years to make him one of the greatest American musical talents to date. In honor of his centennial, QCSO will perform some of his most evocative pieces during Masterworks III on Saturday, Dec. 1 and Sunday, Dec. 2.
Featured in this series is concertmaster Naha Greenholtz with a stunning performance of Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium) and principal clarinetist Daniel Won’s QCSO solo debut with Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata.
Dancing on the Town
Masterworks III opens with Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town. Premiering on Broadway in 1944, the musical follows three sailors on a 24-hour shore leave in New York City as each makes a romantic connection with a woman.
Last performed by QCSO in 1995, Three Dance Episodes takes the listener through a variety of extreme emotional circumstances. The first episode, Dance of the Great Lover, deals with a sailor’s dream of sweeping the woman he loves off her feet.
The second, Pas de Deux, feels dark and mellow while telling the story of a high school girl who is led on and eventually rejected by a sailor.
The third and final episode, Times Square Ballot, ends on a swing-style celebratory note as the three aforementioned sailors gather in Times Square to begin their night of partying.
Understanding the Nature of Love
Completed in 1954, Bernstein’s Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium) consists of five different movements, each dedicated to an ancient Greek philosopher and their views on love.
“Right off the bat you don’t know what to expect with this piece,” said concertmaster Naha Greenholtz who will perform the violin solo encompassing the first movement. “It starts off very rhetorically with just a violin but later moves into a full, boisterous orchestra.”
Each movement ranges in emotion, capturing extremes that help reflect what each philosopher believes to be the true nature of love. The audience will undoubtedly experience these shifts in emotion as the piece progresses.
“Bernstein really captures extreme emotions during this wild exploration of the nature of love,” Greenholtz said. “There are moments in this piece that are so heart-achingly gorgeous. The expressive parts really let you sink your teeth into them while capturing a variety of different moods and colors.”
From Calm to Jazzy
Originally written for Clarinet and Piano in 1942, the Clarinet Sonata was orchestrated by Sid Ramin and premiered in 1994 after Bernstein’s death. While relatively short in comparison to the other pieces included in Masterworks III, principal clarinetist Daniel Won is set to mesmerize the audience as he makes his QCSO solo debut.
“I’m super pumped,” Won said. “The audience has heard me as a part of the orchestra, but now they get to hear me as a soloist. I hope they will get to know me on a deeper level through this opportunity.”
As for the piece itself, Won says “it starts nice and calm, and then it picks up the tempo in the first movement. The second movement is jazzy; you can hear Broadway and West Side.”
Finishing with West Side Story
Originally premiering in 1957 to critical acclaim, West Side Story is a musical classic that’s captivated millions. Masterworks III concludes with Symphonic Dances, last performed by QCSO in 2013.
The piece begins with the entire orchestra in unison, calling the audience to attention. Like the stage performers, available orchestra members snap their fingers to the beat.
A viola solo will grab at the audience, forcing them to feel the pain and heartbreak of the musical’s central characters, Tony and Maria, as they navigate their respective warring gangs despite their love for one another.
Suspense builds and eventually boils over into a climax as the Jets and Sharks rumble. The drama then wanes into a heart-breaking flute solo, ending on equally somber and ominous notes.
An Emotionally Extreme Experience
Like all artists, Bernstein created not just to entertain, but also to invoke emotion within his audience. Whether sad or happy, dissuaded or hopeful, Masterworks III balances emotional extremes through some of the composer’s most significant pieces. Paired with masterful performances by concertmaster Naha Greenholtz and principal clarinetist Daniel Won, Masterworks III will not disappoint.
Masterworks III: Celebrating Bernstein’s Centennial
December 1, 2018 | 8:00 p.m.
136 East 3rd Street | Davenport, IA
December 2, 2018 | 2:00 p.m.
3703 7th Avenue | Rock Island, IL
Purchase Tickets | $17-$64 Adults | $10-$33 Students
Mark Russell Smith, conductor
Naha Greenholtz, violin
Daniel Won, clarinet
Dive Deeper into the QCSO’s 104th Season
Besides purchasing tickets to the main performance, QCSO also offers the unique opportunity to interact with the orchestra both before and after. Join us for Inside the Music, Concert Conversations, and a special Opening Night Afterglow.
Join QCSO Music Director Mark Russell Smith in an exploration of the Masterworks programs on the Thursday evening preceding each Masterworks concert. Doors open at 4:45 p.m. Free Admission. Cash Bar. Hosted at the Hotel Blackhawk.
One hour prior to each Masterworks performance, concertgoers are invited to attend informal pre-concert conversations to hear about the works being presented. Hosted by Kai Swanson. Sponsored by Chris Connolly, Wells Fargo Advisors.
Mingle with Maestro Mark Russell Smith, guest artists, and members of the QCSO immediately following the Saturday Masterworks performances. Free Admission. Cash Bar. Hosted at the Hotel Blackhawk