Symphonies of Iowa

Mondays at 7 p.m. on FM Classical (alternates with Classical 24)

Every week, Symphonies of Iowa showcases Iowa's leading orchestras in concert. You'll hear a mix of familiar masterpieces and new works, of world-renowned soloists and Iowa's best composers and musicians. Join us Mondays at 7 PM.

Click here for a simple chronological list of this season's concerts.

Ways to Connect

Ernst Hader - painting

Have you ever had a love song written for you by a significant other? Hector Berlioz wrote his Symphonie fantastique to depict “the life of an artist” after he had fallen instantly and wildly in love with actress Harriet Smithson while seeing her in a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in London. But the piece is far from a crooning ballad.

Rodger Thomas

Jazz and classical artist, Branford Marsalis, of the famed Marsalis musical family, has established a career as a performer of international renown, equally at home in both concert halls and jazz clubs. Growing up in the rich environment of New Orleans as the oldest son of pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis, Branford was drawn to music along with siblings Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. His first instrument, the clarinet, gave way to the alto and then the tenor and soprano saxophones when the teenage Branford began working in local bands.

www.robertthies.org

In 1995, pianist Robert Thies received worldwide recognition when he won the Gold Medal at the Second International Prokofiev Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia. No American pianist since Van Cliburn, who won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 in Moscow, had accomplished such an impressive feat.

Timo Andres

At just 31 years old, composer and performer Caroline Shaw became the youngest winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music to date. But this achievement is certainly not the only impressive bullet point on her résumé. She performs as a violin soloist, chamber musician, and as a vocalist in the Grammy-winning ensemble Roomful of Teeth. The eclectic group performs in the styles of Tuvan throat singing, yodeling, belting, Inuit throat singing, Georgian singing, and Persian classical singing, among others.

Deutsche Grammophon

Antonio Vivaldi wrote over 500 concertos for various instruments. Today, most people know four of them. The Four Seasons for violin and chamber orchestra can be heard in countless movie soundtracks and TV ads. Many modern composers have been so inspired by the concertos that they have reimagined them in their own style. One such composer is Max Richter of Germany.

In 1939, a budding young composer named Samuel Barber accepted a commission for a violin concerto by a wealthy businessman. The businessman’s adopted son, Iso Briselli, was a violin prodigy. That summer, Barber went to Switzerland and composed the first two movements of the concerto. When Briselli saw them, he complained that the music was “too simple and not brilliant enough for a concerto.” Their relationship was off to a less-than-ideal start. 

Cheryl Gorski

Acclaimed by the New York Times as “one of the finest conductors of her generation,” JoAnn Falletta is a much-sought guest conductor and a vibrant presence on the podium. Her energetic concert with the Des Moines Symphony opens with Brahms’s lively Academic Festival Overture. Next, the virtuosic Oasis Quartet plays Bolcom’s Concerto Grosso, a masterpiece for four saxophones and orchestra. Finally, Bruckner’s monumental Fourth Symphony, his “cathedral of sound,” will take your breath away with its blazing power and majesty.

Rachel Bearinger

World-class pianists are taking over Symphonies of Iowa! Tune in this Sunday, September 3rd at 4 p.m. and Monday, September 4th at 7 p.m. to hear performances by the three finalists of the 2nd Midwest International Piano Competition. On round three of the competition, all of the remaining three finalists had chosen to play Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat, Op. 73 for their final round work with the wcfsymphony under the direction of Jason Weinberger.

Glorious Brass

Aug 23, 2017
wcfsymphony

The history of the brass ensemble is a rich, beautiful, and loud one! It stretches from the earliest days of chamber music in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance to the later music of Richard Strauss and the modern jazz band. The brass sound is versatile and unmistakable in our culture.

Stephane Gallois for Vanity Fair

“For much of the concert, the audience had to remember to breathe…the exhilaration didn’t let up for a second until her hands came off the keyboard.”

Never before had the world experienced a phenomenon like the Harry Potter franchise. The seven-book series gained such popularity that crowds of fans would wait outside of bookstores for midnight releases of the newest installments. The accompanying films were also immensely well-received, due in part to their fabulous soundtracks. The great composer John Williams scored the first three movies, and his themes were woven into the scores for the rest of the films. To date, the franchise has an estimated value of $15 billion, and the films have grossed over $7.7 billion worldwide.

One of the most colorful cultural histories in Iowa belongs to those of Czech heritage. Early Czech immigrants to Iowa settled in farming communities, most notably at Spillville in the northeast corner of the state. Later, immigrants from today’s Czech and Slovak Republics came to work in meatpacking plants, primarily in Cedar Rapids where Czech immigrants first settled in the early 1850s. Many of the Czechs who settled in Cedar Rapids worked in the large Sinclair meatpacking plant.

Marco Borggreve

Russian violinist Vadim Gluzman has been praised for his technical proficiency along with his power and passion. Gluzman joins the Des Moines Symphony as he offers a thrilling performance of Brahms’s virtuosic Violin Concerto in this week’s Symphonies of Iowa encore broadcast. Born in the former Soviet Union, Gluzman studied with several renowned teachers there before moving to Israel and eventually the United States to attend the Juilliard School.

Erik Weiss

Antonio Vivaldi wrote over 500 concertos for various instruments. Today, most people know four of them. The Four Seasons for violin and chamber orchestra can be heard in countless movie soundtracks and TV ads. Many modern composers have been so inspired by the concertos that they have reimagined them in their own style. One such composer is Max Richter of Germany.

You would be hard-pressed to find a person with any knowledge of music who didn’t know of Mozart’s history as a child prodigy. But far fewer know that another young and well-known musician was also a genius. His name was Felix Mendelssohn.

Mendelssohn’s musical talent blossomed at an early age. He began taking piano lessons from his mother when he was six, and at seven was tutored by Marie Bigot in Paris. The great writer Goethe may have been the first to compare Mendelssohn to Mozart when speaking with Mendelssohn’s other teacher, Zelter:

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 is arguably the grandest, most recognizable symphony of all time. It was, and still is, unprecedented in its scale and presentation of musical themes. Throughout the symphony, he expressed ideas in the styles of nations who had been in conflict with one another. The work was also surprising in its transitions from key to key, the order of its movements, and its extreme contrasts between light and dark. The first three movements gradually build into a joyful finale sung by a massive choir and four vocal soloists.

Portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann

Though coffee consumption was illegal in much of Germany during his lifetime, the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach was a known frequenter of Leipzig’s many coffee houses. His famously exuberant personality could have easily been attributed to his avid coffee drinking. So enthusiastic was he about the beverage that he composed a secular cantata about it entitled “Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (Be still, stop chattering)” better known as the Coffee Cantata.

Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic is second only to the Mona Lisa in terms of significance. The Iowan artist was extremely appreciative of Midwest traditions and culture, which he celebrated in 1930 through American Gothic and many other works. The painting is often understood as a satirical comment on the Midwestern character, and is now firmly fixated in the nation’s pop culture. Yet Wood intended it to be a positive statement about rural American values and an image of reassurance at a time of great dislocation and disillusionment.

One of the world’s most celebrated violinists hails from our own state of Iowa.

Robert Zimansky received his first instruction from John Ferrell at the University of Iowa. He continued his studies with Sally Thomas and Ivan Galamian at the Juilliard School in New York. In 1972, Zimansky packed up his violin and moved to Europe, where he became first concertmaster in Spoleto, Munich, Stuttgart, the Lucerne Festival and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva.

Many years ago, the Persian King Shahryar was betrayed by his wife. In anger, he vowed to marry a new woman each day and have the previous one beheaded, so that she would have no chance of being unfaithful to him. A man of his word, he executed 1,000 women before being visited by the young Scheherazade.

In 1830, a young, dashing, rising star named Robert Schumann started studying piano in Leipzig with the well-known teacher, Friedrich Wieck, and moved into a room in his teacher’s house. Wieck’s 11-year-old daughter, Clara, was a gifted pianist and composer who was already giving concerts. The 20-year-old Robert became infatuated with her over time, and after intense opposition and legal battles with Clara’s father, the two were married in 1840 just before her 21st birthday.

Aladár Székely

Composer Zoltán Kodály was one of the world’s first ethnomusicologists. In 1905, he trekked across Hungary to secluded villages to collect folk songs sung by the villagers who lived there. He recorded them on an Edison phonograph, and as a result, preserved an entire culture. He then became fast friends with fellow composer Béla Bartók and shared his methods of song collection with him. The two set out on more musical road trips together, and were lifelong champions of each other’s music.

In the late-Romantic musical world, Wagner’s works dominated concert stages. His numerous operas exhibited a distinctly “German sound” and featured Aryan characters in their lead roles. French composer Erik Satie was one of the first to call for a change for music of the time period. He issued a challenge for a French approach to music, “without sauerkraut!” inspiring the French Six (Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Louis Durey, and Germaine Tailleferre) as well as Maurice Ravel.

Photograph of a painting by Ernst Hader

Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique set a new precedent for the symphony. Berlioz wrote his Symphonie to depict “the life of an artist” after he had fallen instantly and wildly in love with actress Harriet Smithson while seeing her in a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in London.

Roger Thomas

Jazz and classical artist, Branford Marsalis, of the famed Marsalis musical family, has established a career as a performer of international renown, equally at home in both concert halls and jazz clubs. Growing up in the rich environment of New Orleans as the oldest son of pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis, Branford was drawn to music along with siblings Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. His first instrument, the clarinet, gave way to the alto and then the tenor and soprano saxophones when the teenage Branford began working in local bands.

jasonweinberger.com

Come join us this Thursday at Iowa Public Radio’s Annual Open House at our Cedar Falls studio! Music Director and Conductor of the wcfsymphony, Jason Weinberger, will make a guest appearance along with the symphony’s guest pianist extraordinaire, Mimi Solomon. Solomon, an American pianist, has been heard as recitalist, chamber musician, and orchestral soloist in the United States as well as in China, Japan and Europe.

robertthies.org

In 1995, pianist Robert Thies received worldwide recognition when he won the Gold Medal at the Second International Prokofiev Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia. No American pianist since Van Cliburn, who won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 in Moscow, had accomplished such a feat.

Christian Steiner

This week’s Symphony of Iowa features Orchestra Iowa’s Showcase Chamber “A Point of Departure” concert on Sunday, April 16 at 4 p.m. and Monday, April 17 at 7 p.m.

wcfsymphony.org

This week’s Symphony of Iowa features the wcfsymphony’s “Four Seasons II” concert on Sunday, April 9 at 4 p.m. and Monday, April 10 at 7 p.m.

This week’s Symphony of Iowa features Orchestra Iowa’s “American Mystics” concert on Sunday, April 2 at 4 p.m. and Monday, April 3 at 7 p.m.

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