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Release: Immediate

University of Iowa Orchestra will give summer concert July 2

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- David Nelson will conduct the University of Iowa Symphony in a concert featuring three popular opera overtures and the First Symphony of Beethoven at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 2, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The concert will be free and open to the public.

Overtures taken from 19th-century operas have become popular concert pieces. Designed to capture an audience's attention, or to preview the coming action, or simply to establish a mood for the opening scene, they are often exciting, entertaining pieces that have become audience favorites apart from the operas for which they were written.

All three overtures on the July 2 program -- one by Donizetti and two by Rossini -- date from the first half of the 19th century. The Overture to Donizetti's "Don Pasquale," first performed at the Italian Theater in Paris in 1843, consists of a series of short, unrelated musical ideas taken from the opera, arranged in a sequence of generally increasing tempo and rhythmic excitement.

The Overture to "La gazza ladra" (The thieving magpie), composed in 1817, is characteristic of Rossini's Italian opera overtures, full the sparkling melodies and unstoppable rhythmic drive that made the composer a sensation across Europe. In the typical Rossini overture a slow introduction -- in this case a march-like passage dominated by the snare drum -- is followed by a very fast section that features the so-called "Rossini crescendo": a passage of repeated rhythmic figures that gradually grows louder and louder, as more and more instruments join in and the momentum becomes irresistible. This passage is usually heard twice, the second time leading to a culminating section in even faster tempo.

The Overture to "William Tell" -- probably the most famous opera overture ever written, with the instantly recognizable "Lone Ranger" theme music -- belongs to a somewhat different tradition. Rossini's last opera, "William Tell" was written in Paris in 1829. An example of what is today called French Grand Opera, its overture was more extensive than most Italian opera overtures. It consists of a series of descriptive sections that loosely reflect the dramatic progression of the opera: a slow passage for five cellos representing dawn, a storm, a pastoral scene, and the famous military music that concludes the overture in a blaze of brilliance.

Beethoven composed his Symphony No. 1 in C major in 1800, eight years after he had settled in Vienna -- then the musical capital of Europe -- but before most of the great works for which he is known today. It was written very much in the style Beethoven inherited from the 18th-century classical composers, with four movements in the traditional pattern of fast movement, slow movement, minuet and finale.

The influence of Joseph Haydn is particularly evident. Beethoven had studied with him in 1793, before Haydn set out for his second concert tour to London. Haydn's influence is particularly evident in the finale, which has the folk-like melodies, dance rhythms and light-hearted humor of the finales of the symphonies Haydn wrote for his London concerts. Only the minuet shows hints of Beethoven's own musical personality, in its fast tempo and insistent rhythms.

Nelson has been director of the UI School of Music since 1991. He is a music educator and conductor as well as a violinist with professional orchestral and chamber music experience. Before coming to the UI, he was on the faculty and directed the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of scholarly articles in music psychology, music cognition and pedagogy. He holds degrees from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the University of Texas at Austin.