Love will be on full display in Masterworks IV, beginning first with an intimate piano recital featuring Pianists Michael and Kyung Kim on the rare Pleyel double grand piano on Friday, Jan. 24, and ending with a full symphonic exploration of love through the stories of three literary couples on Feb. 1 and 2.
A Rare Treat
It’s all too fitting that Michael and Kyung Kim, the two pianists at center stage for Masterworks IV, are husband and wife. While they’re typically solo performers, Friday’s recital unites the couple on the rare Pleyel double grand piano.
“We’re so excited to perform on this exceedingly rare piano,” Michael said. “We didn’t even know this piano existed until we were invited to perform.”
The piano is unique not only because of its design—it’s literally two pianos in one box with keys on either side–but also because of its long and immense history. Built in 1904 in Paris, it eventually found its way to the Quad Cities and is thought to be the only of its kind in the entire western hemisphere.
“Back when it was in Paris, the patron who owned it would host these salons and invite some of Europe’s most influential artists of the time,” said QCSO Executive Director Brian Baxter. “There’s a long list of famous French musicians—Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc—who are all thought to have played this instrument.”
This means Michael and Kyung will perform simultaneously on one instrument, taking on pieces by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Ravel, and Debussy.
“It’s a collage of so many different French composers,” Kyung said. “Our goal is to really captivate the audience.”
The intimate performance takes place at Asbury United Methodist Church in Bettendorf, the piano’s permanent home, and is free to the public.
“We are excited to present this performance with the Quad Cities Music Teachers Association and the Federated Music Teachers Association of the Quad Cities,” Baxter said.
A Full Exploration of Love
QCSO chose to explore the concept of love and how it fits into the larger human experience. Masterworks IV does that by telling the stories of various couples, kicking off with the overture from Glinka’s .
Composed by Russian composer Mikhail Glinka between 1837 and 1842, the larger opera consists of five acts and first premiered in 1842. However, its overture is what’s most well-known.
Originally a Russian poem by Alexander Pushkin, Ruslan and Lyudmila are betrothed and about to marry. However, trouble comes on their wedding day when Lyudmila suddenly goes missing.
The piece explores the couple’s love as it is challenged by an outside force of jealousy and the heroism needed for them to find their way back to each other.
“Our program covers both the good and bad parts of love,” said QCSO Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith. “And music enriches that experience of love unlike any other art form”
Following the Russian drama is Fauré’s Pelleas et Melisande. Originally a play by Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck, this story involves a forbidden, doomed love.
Essentially, Melisande falls in love with Pelleas, her husband’s brother,” Baxter said. “This story is very tragic and doesn’t end well.”
Gabriel Fauré, a French composer, was commissioned in April 1898 to write the music for the play’s first English production. He premiered the piece just two months later.
“It makes for a pretty realistic depiction of love. Because, at its core, it’s about two people who fall in love with each other and that’s a beautiful thing, “Baxter said. “But then the world around them puts up roadblocks or creates challenges to that love.”
A Piece to Uplift
Michael and Kyung Kim shine as they take on Francis Poulenc’s uplifting Concerto for Two Pianos. Composed in the summer of 1932, the piece consists of three movements and is often described as the climax of Poulenc’s early period.
“Kyung and Michael are both really wonderful musicians,” Smith said. “Both are very lyrical and elegant performers.”
Smith describes Poulenc’s Concerto as beautiful yet not overly sentimental. “It’s a very French piece,” he said. “And there’s a tiny bit of detachment in it that Kyung and Michael will capture perfectly.”
Mozart’s influence on the Concerto is evident, especially in the first and second movements. QCSO Executive Director says Balinese Gamelan music also served as a source of inspiration.
“Francis Poulenc is kind of a quirky composer. With this piece in particular, while it’s clearly grounded in a classical tradition, he was inspired at this time by Balinese Gamelan music,” Baxter said. “It was kind of the fashionable thing for the time—to be inspired by Balinese Gamelan music. It was really coming to people’s attention over the last 30 years when Poulenc wrote the piece.”
Michael and Kyung look forward to performing the piece. This won’t be the first time they’ve tag teamed Poulenc’s Concerto; in fact, they performed it about three years ago with Mark Russell Smith in the Twin Cities.
“Mark is not only a wonderful conductor, but also a wonderful accompanist,” Kyung said.
Michael added, “We are both looking forward to this performance because of its innate spontaneity. While we play as one, we also are in opposition to one another. That makes for a very exciting dynamic.”
Ending with Great Tragedy
Masterworks IV concludes with a great tragedy known to all: Romeo and Juliet. Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev first wrote a ballet based off of Shakespeare’s play in 1935, its premiere following just three years later in 1938.
“Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet is an amazing, dramatic piece,” Smith said. “He uses the orchestra in a fantastic way, portraying all of the colors and emotions so elegantly. The way Prokofiev brings the story and characters to life is unlike anything else.”
Despite ending on a somber note, the program will sweep attendees off their feet with beautiful, melodic moments. QCSO and its performers capture love perfectly all the while honoring the season’s mission of exploring the human condition.
“This program– it’s really above what love means within the greater context of the human story,” Baxter said.
November 38 2019 | 2:00 p.m.
3703 7th Ave | Rock Island, IL
Purchase Tickets | $18 – $65 Adults each | $10 – $33 Students each
Enrich Your Experience
INSIDE THE MUSIC
Join QCSO Music Director Mark Russell Smith in an exploration of the Masterworks programs on Thursday evening preceding each Masterworks concert. Doors open at 4:45 p.m. Free Admission. Cash Bar. Hosted at the Hotel Blackhawk.
One hour before each Masterworks performance, concert-goers are invited to attend informal pre-concert conversations to hear about the works being presented. Hosted by Kai Swanson. Sponsored by Chris Connoly, 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