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Release: Immediate

Russian and American works form the program for UI Symphony Oct. 22

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Symphony will play two Russian pieces from the early 20th century and a new American composition on a free concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.

The second concert of the symphony's 1997-98 academic year, it will also be the second concert for the symphony's new conductor, William LaRue Jones.

The three works on the program will be "Waltz in the Cave of Eros" by Augusta Read Thomas, the Suite from the "Firebird" ballet of Igor Stravinsky and the Symphony No. 1 in G minor of Vasily Kalinnikov.

One of the country's leading young composers, Thomas teaches composition at the Eastman School of Music and has recently been appointed composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony. Her works have received increasing notice through performances led by Mstislav Rostropovich, Pierre Boulez, Seiji Ozawa, Dennis Russell Davies and other internationally recognized conductors.

"Waltz in the Cave of Eros" was commissioned by Jones for the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., and premiered by him with that orchestra in February of this year. It is based on the familiar dance, making use of the traditional rhythms and structure of the waltz but with an ominous twist: lacking the cheerful mood of the social dance, the main waltz section of the piece is aggressive and angular in quality. This section is preceded by an introduction and interrupted, briefly, by a lyrical but rhythmically complex interlude.

Widely regarded as one of the great composers of the 20th century, Stravinsky embraced a series of styles that reflect several trends from the first half of the century: Russian late Romanticism and primitivism in the early 1910s; neo-classicism from the 1920s, gradually giving away to a highly individual serial style in the 1950s and '60s. In spite of these changes, many basic features of Stravinsky's style, rooted in elements of Russian folk music, remained constant throughout his life.

Stravinksy first came to international fame with his three ballet scores composed for the impresario Serge Diaghelev and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. All three were premiered in Paris, "The Firebird" in 1910, "Petroushka" in 1911 and -- in one of the most famous theatrical scandals of history, causing a riot in the audience -- "The Rite of Spring" in 1913.

As the first of the three ballets, "The Firebird" is naturally the most conservative. It owes much to Stravinsky's teacher, the great Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, from whom Stravinsky borrowed some specific devices of musical characterization, as well as a luxurious use of orchestral color. As he moved stylistically beyond "The Firebird" in his later works, Stravinsky became critical of its most traditional elements. At the same time, he remained proud of the score's technical innovations in orchestration.

The Russian composer Vasily Kalinnikov is virtually unknown outside his native country, although his First Symphony has been continuously in the Russian orchestral repertoire since its first performance in Kiev in 1900.

The son of a police official, Kalinnikov studied on a scholarship as a bassoon player at the Moscow Philharmonic Society Music School. As a young man he barely managed a modest existence, playing in theater orchestras and working as a copyist. He had several admirers in the musical establishment, however, and Tchaikovsky thought highly enough of him to recommend him as a conductor.

Unfortunately, Kalinnikov's health broke down when he was 27 and he was forced to live the rest of his life in the Crimea, supported largely by friends. In spite of his declining health he continued to compose, completing two symphonies and several other orchestral pieces as well as a number of piano works. He died in 1901, two days short of his 35th birthday.

A UI music alumnus and the founding music director/administrator of the internationally recognized Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., Jones came to the UI this fall to direct the University Symphony for the 1997-98 academic year. He replaces Iowa legend James Dixon, the director of the orchestra for more than 40 years, who retired at the end of the 1996-97 academic year.

Jones is a highly honored musician, having received the Twin Cities Mayors' Public Art Award, the American String Teachers Association Exceptional Leadership and Merit Award and the David W. Preuss Leadership Award. He has also been selected Musician of the Year by Sigma Alpha Iota , a music honorary society.

Jones has appeared as a guest conductor with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Sinfonie Orchester AML-Luzern (Switzerland) and other orchestras around the world. He has conducted all-state and festival orchestras in 46 states and five Canadian provinces. He has been conductor-in-residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts and the University of Miami (Fla.).

Most recently, he conducted a concert with the orchestra of the All-State Music Camp at the UI during the past summer.

Jones holds a Master of Fine Arts in music from the UI and a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.