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Soprano Errante will perform songs from turn-of-the-century Munich

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Soprano Valerie Errante and pianist Robert Wason will perform "Songs from the Munich School" -- a turn-of-the-century art-song tradition centered in Munich, Germany -- in two recitals at 8 p.m. Mondays Feb. 3 and Feb. 10, in Clapp Recital Hall on the University of Iowa campus.

The performance by Errante, a member of the UI School of Music faculty, and Wason, who teaches at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., will be free and open to the public.

The two programs will feature songs by the best-known representative of the Munich school, Richard Strauss, as well as works by some lesser-known composers who wrote songs in Munich just before and after the turn of the century.

Historians consider the songs of the Munich school to be the products of the richest period of German literary and musical culture. The popularity of poetry was so great in 19th-century Germany that, by one report, there were 20,000 German poets during the century. By the turn of the 20th century, there was an immense quantity of poetry in the German literary tradition.

Not surprisingly, musicians were prolific in their settings of this poetry, although most of the music is now long out of print and hard to find. But at the time, these songs represented a mass entertainment medium, aimed at a large, well-educated and affluent middle class.

Munich was the setting of an especially vital and thriving musical culture. A relatively progressive city, it was the home of the art movement known as "Jugendstil," named for the Munich journal "Jugend" (Youth). Both the Jugendstil in the visual and literary arts, and the songs of the Munich school combined the Romantic heritage of the 19th century with traits of 20th-century modernism.

At the center of this musical activity were Strauss and his close friend, Ludwig Thuille, a teacher at the Munich Conservatory of Music. "Munich school" is sometimes used narrowly to refer specifically to Thuille and his students, but more broadly it refers to a musical style shared by Strauss, Thuille and others.

Featured on the first recital, Feb. 3, will be songs by Thuille and his student Walter Courvoisier, along with works by Alexander Ritter and Rudi Stephan. The program for the Feb. 10 recital will consist entirely of songs by Strauss and Thuille.

Errante joined the UI music faculty in the fall of 1996. A prize winner in several international vocal competitions, she has sung professionally in the United States and Europe. Following her professional debut with the Michigan Opera Theater and the Dayton Opera Association, she was selected for the Opera Studio of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. From 1984 to 1990 she was engaged as leading lyric coloratura soprano at the Opera House of the City of Kiel, Germany, where she sang more than 30 roles.

Errante has also been a soloist in concert and oratorio with the Kiel Philharmonic, and made guest appearances of opera and concert works in Krefeld, Freiburg and Munich, Germany; as well as in Italy and Estonia. She has made recordings with the Bavarian State Radio and appeared in Eurovision television productions of opera. Since 1991 she has devoted a majority of her time to teaching, with positions at Essen, Germany, and at the Eastman School of Music.

Errante holds a bachelor's degree from Ithaca College, a master's from Northern Michigan University and a doctorate in musical performance and literature from the Eastman School. Her most recent professional appearances have been with Opera Theater of Rochester, the Rochester Oratorio Society and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

Wason studied music composition and piano at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Conn., and music theory at Yale. His background also includes considerable experience in jazz and popular music, including performances with Buck Clayton, Sammy Davis Jr., Bobby Vinton and the Four Tops.

After deciding on an academic career, Wason won a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Music Conservatory in Vienna, Austria, where he did research on the history of Viennese harmonic theory. He has published a book on that subject and later received Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships for research on the 20th-century Viennese composer Anton Webern.

The author of many scholarly articles on the history of theory, Wason has taught at the Hartt School, Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and the University of North Texas. Currently a member of the theory faculty at the Eastman School of Music, he has also taught recently at the University of Basel in Switzerland, the University of British Columbia and the State University of New York at Buffalo.

For more information on these concerts, call (319) 335-1677.