Maestro Edward Markward’s Final Performance with the RIC Symphony

On April 29 Maestro Edward Markward performed to a packed house as he led his final concert as conductor of the Rhode Island College Symphony Orchestra.

The evening began with the traditional tuning of instruments when suddenly the dissonance died down and Rhode Island College President Nancy Carriuolo walked onto the stage.

She called out Markward from backstage and read to him and to the audience a touching letter written by his youngest brother, Dave, who couldn’t be at his final concert but spoke of deep admiration for his brother.

Carriuolo presented Markward with red and pink roses and expressed her own love and thanks for a job well done. Immediately, the audience stood on their feet and gave a lengthy ovation. Markward elegantly bowed in thanks.

The lights dimmed and Markward took his place at the podium. With an emphatic downbeat, he set off the explosive opening of the first movement of Richard Wagner’s Prelude to “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.”

He was a controlled kinetic presence at the podium – at times his shoulders jerked and his body lifted at the heels. With every gesture and wave of the baton, he exhibited cool precision.

The musicians, who knew their maestro well, sounded inspired.

Wagner’s prelude was designed to showcase the ensemble. Markward described the ensemble as fearless, willing to take on large and technically difficult compositions.

“They’ve accepted every challenge given to them and performed admirably,” he wrote in the concert program. “I hope you will forgive them and me for the pride we feel in our musical family.”

The second work on the program was Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Opus 61. This piece showcased one of the greatest violinists of our time, guest artist Arturo Delmoni.

Throughout his 40 years as conductor, Markward has consistently invited gifted artists to perform with the orchestra so that RIC students might have the opportunity to work with professionals in the field.

Delmoni has performed with the symphony more than any other guest artist. That night his playing was riveting -- and breathtaking. The concerto was written to be a measured dialogue between the solo violin and the orchestra. There was a tremendous sense of intimacy and almost rapt exchange between the instruments and Delmoni. 

At the end of the piece, the audience responded with three standing ovations while the violinist hugged his longtime friend.

The final work on the program was a magnificent rendition of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (“From the New World”). Markward dedicated the work to his father, who died 12 years ago. He described his father as the greatest influence in his life. This, coupled with Markward’s retirement from the college, made for a triumphant conclusion.

Dvořák’s symphony showcased Markward’s polished – almost transfixing – conducting style. Venerated in the region, he is credited with shaping the music department at RIC and for bringing great classics to the Rhode Island community.

Upon the conclusion of the concert, the audience rose to give a rush of thunderous applause. Roses were tossed upon the stage at Markward’s feet amidst shouts of “Bravo!” And “Bravi!”

This marked the end of an era at Rhode Island College and was a fitting farewell to the legendary conductor.

Ian Greitzer, RIC assistant professor of music and chair of the department, said he was thankful for “what Markward has done and for what he has given to the college and to the community.”

“He and I often talk in private moments about what it means to be successful,” he said. “This is success.”