In collaboration with the Figge Art Museum, QCSO’s tribute to the French Modern aesthetic appeals to a human, multi-generational experience within us all.

Sensual. Fluid. Haunting. These words only begin to capture the full breadth of emotions conveyed by the opening of QCSO’s Masterworks Series next weekend, October 6 and 7. Not only will the orchestra take on some the era’s most impactful pieces, but also flutist John McMurtery will mesmerize the audience with a solo of Debussy’s Syrinx.

 “It’s a very exciting program,” said QCSO Executive Director Brian Baxter. “There’s a range of very soft, intimate music to music that is bombastic and loud with heavy brass and percussion.”

A Tribute to Subtlety

french modernsWhile Impressionism itself was a term reluctantly embraced by the artists of the time, its core concept remains intact today: to use art as a means of creating subtle moods and experiences. The sensation proves its alive and well during both halves of QCSO’s French Moderns performance.

Up first is Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun is one of those pieces in the history of orchestral music that’s incredibly important,” Baxter said. “Its importance is on par with the likes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. This piece helped to push the genre of orchestral music into the modern age.”

QCSO Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith agrees, adding, “Prelude is a French masterpiece that is beautiful, sensual, and sexy.”

Following Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun is another captivating piece by Debussy. Nocturnes, inspired by a series of impressionist paintings by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, has three unique movements: Clouds, Festivals, and Sirens. This piece features the Handel Oratorio Society & Augustana Choral Artists directed by Jon Hurty.

John-McMurtery_MWIAs the program moves into the second half, Flutist John McMurtery will perform Debussy’s Syrinx.

“The music is so vivid and evocative that it reaches you where you are,” said Smith. “The idea of impressionism as a scene can look different based off perspective. The experience is legit because you are who you are, and it’s your unique experience.”

Last is Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. This, according to Executive Director Brian Baxter, is a significant piece for many reasons.

“The subject matter of Pictures at an Exhibition matches perfectly with the Figge,” Baxter said. “The piece itself is about Mussorgsky going through an exhibition belonging to an artist that he was personally close to who had just died very young. It was a personal work for him. And the orchestration we are playing of it is by Ravel, a French composer.”

Regardless of previous experience attending an orchestra performance, Baxter says anyone can enjoy the music, especially Pictures at an Exhibition.

“Pictures at an Exhibition is a great piece for someone who is new at the orchestra. It’s easy to connect with, and you’ve likely heard a lot of it before but didn’t realize it,” Baxter said.

Music as a Shared Experience

There is humanity in music, and that’s why this performance can affect anyone who attends. In a society consumed by on-demand solo experiences, Smith believes the orchestra brings to life an all-too-rare shared experience.

“You are there collectively breathing with everyone on stage,” he said. “With me, with the performers, with every audience member.”

Baxter agrees, noting that minimal if any knowledge of the composers or pieces themselves is required to have a fulfilling experience.

“It’s all up to how you want to treat your experience. You don’t have to spend any time preparing. You can simply enjoy the music.”

In 1874, Modest Mussorgsky was inspired to compose Pictures at an Exhibition after attending a showing of Viktor Hartmann’s art. Today, patients of the Genesis Cancer Center Institute can be inspired by a virtual tour of the Figge Art Museum with Genie the Robot. With help from the Living Proof Exhibit and BeamPro, Genie takes us on a tour to see her version of Pictures at an Exhibition at the Figge Art Museum. 


Masterworks I: French Moderns
October 6, 2018 | 8:00 p.m.
Adler Theatre
136 East 3rd Street | Davenport, IA

October 7, 2018 | 2:00 p.m.
Centennial Hall
3703 7th Avenue | Rock Island, IL

Purchase Tickets | $17-$64 Adults | $10-$33 Students


Mark Russell Smith, conductor
Handel Oratorio Society & Augustana Choral Artists | Jon Hurty, director
John McMurtery, flute

Join the QCSO Community and Enrich Your Experience

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.

Inside the Music

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.

Concert Conversations

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.


Celebrate Opening Night and Maestro Mark Russell Smith as he receives the QCSO’s Inaugural Distinguished Service Award for 10 years as Music Director and Conductor. Join the Maestro and members of the QCSO immediately following the Saturday Masterworks performance in the lobby of the Hotel Blackhawk for hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.  Free Admission.


Article by
Tyler Mitchell
Freelance Writer

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