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Release: Immediate

Sir Simon Rattle and City of Birmingham Symphony begin high-profile U.S. tour in Hancher

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) will open their tour of the United States and Japan with a concert at 8 p.m. Monday, May 11 in the University of Iowa's Hancher Auditorium. From the UI, the CBSO will travel to Orchestra Hall in Chicago, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Lincoln Center in New York City and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles before departing for major venues in Tokyo and other Japanese cities.

The final event in the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center Silver Anniversary Series and the final event in Hancher's Silver Anniversary season, the concert will feature the Suite from "Les Boreades" by Rameau, Haydn's Symphony No. 86 in D Major, and one of the most popular works in the symphonic repertoire, Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, the "Eroica."

The concert is part of Rattle's farewell U.S. tour as principal conductor of the CBSO.

Concert ticketholders are invited to a free pre-performance discussion featuring UI School of Music faculty member Ben Korstvedt, who will focus on the "Eroica" symphony.

The CBSO was founded just after World War I, and no less than Sir Edward Elgar conducted the debut concert. But when 25-year-old Simon Rattle arrived in Birmingham in 1980 to conduct the city's symphony, he found a demoralized, little-regarded outfit in an industrial city with scant cultural tradition. With a combination of talent, vision and youthful energy, he not only turned the orchestra around, but also led a cultural renaissance in Birmingham, transforming an artistic backwater into one of the vibrant centers of contemporary British cultural life.

The San Francisco Examiner called his elevation of the CBSO "one of the major international success stories of the decade."

Now he is Sir Simon Rattle, and the CBSO travels from its new $48 million home to present keenly anticipated concerts around the world. He is a regular guest conductor of the Boston Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic. In 1994, the year that he was knighted, Rattle was EMI's "Artist of the Year."

The CBSO's premiere recording of Aaron Jay Kernis' Second Symphony, which attracted a 1998 Grammy nomination for "Best Classical Contemporary Composition," is part of a critically acclaimed CBSO discography that now totals nearly 100 releases, most under Rattle's baton.

Rattle has become a high-profile cultural spokesman, a top-tier conductor who also loves jazz and has the popularizing touch associated in America's mind with Leonard Bernstein. One example is a user-friendly computer CD-ROM in which Rattle affably introduces the art of the orchestra, using Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra."

Now the CBSO is entering a crucial period of transition. Although Rattle will remain active with the orchestra, Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo will succeed him as principal conductor this summer. The Hancher concert provides an unprecedented opportunity to glimpse one of the world's ascendant cultural institutions as it celebrates the conclusion of its most golden era.

Responding to the most recent CBSO tour of the United States, Newsday recommended: "If you haven't heard them yet, beg, borrow or steal a ticket. Conductors and orchestras such as this one come along very rarely." The Boston Globe described the CBSO with Rattle as "a world-ranking orchestra, a major recording star and a hot ticket in New York." The Washington Times critic called the D.C. concert "A night of discovery and great pleasure, the sort of occasion of which legends are born . . . I have never heard a more thrilling, beautiful and satisfying performance."

Tickets for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra are $52.50, $49.50 and $43.50. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for only $10 -- a discount of more than 80 percent. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

The Clarion Hotel and Conference Center is the corporate sponsor of Hancher's Silver Anniversary Season, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

For more information on the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, navigate to <> on the World Wide Web.