CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Minnesota Contemporary Ensemble presents 'Music for the 21st Century'
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Minnesota Contemporary Ensemble, a flexible chamber
orchestra of 30 players from Minneapolis/St. Paul specializing in "Music
and Performance for the 21st Century," will present a program of contemporary
music at 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22 in Clapp Recital Hall on the University
of Iowa Campus.
The concert, which is presented by the UI Center for New Music, will
be free and open to the public. Duane Schulthess, artistic director and
founder of the ensemble, will conduct.
From its 1993 debut performance at the Walker Art Center, the Minnesota
Contemporary Ensemble (MCE) has performed to critical acclaim throughout
the country. The Dallas Morning News called the MCE "one of the country's
leading advocates of the new in music," and their 1997 debut album,
"180 Degrees from Ordinary," was characterized by the Minneapolis
Star Tribune as "a tour de force of technical ability and engaging
The Feb. 22 program will feature three recent works, all dating from
the 1990s, as well as a major work by the highly individualistic English
composer Peter Maxwell Davies, "Eight Songs for a Mad King,"
composed in 1969.
The psychotic behavior of England's King George III inspired the 1994
film "The Madness of King George" starring actor Nigel Hawthorne
as the deranged king. But many years before the film, the same events had
been the subject of a virtuoso performance piece by composer Peter Maxwell
Davies, "Eight Songs for a Mad King." Making up the second half
of the program, Davies' score will feature bass-baritone Robert Osborne
in a performance staged by Twin-Cities playwright, director and journalist
William Randall Beard.
According to historical accounts, George III became increasingly unstable
beginning about 1788 -- immediately after the American Revolution. At night
he would wander the halls of Windsor Castle, wearing his nightshirt and
holding a candle, muttering and talking at a furious pace. On one occasion,
he spoke without stopping for 16 hours, his voice raspy and hoarse from
the constant vocal barrage. By 1811 the king was violently insane and was
replaced on the throne by his son.
Davies' "Eight Songs" uses a text based on historical accounts
by writer Randolph Snow as well as actual words uttered by George III during
bouts of delirium.
Davies makes his permanent home in the Orkney Islands, an isolated,
wind-blasted island chain off the north coast of Scotland. Accessible only
by boat or private airplane, the Orkneys are moss covered and void of any
trees due to extreme weather conditions. In this austere landscape,
Davies has found inspiration for a large output of works including three
symphonies, a violin concerto and chamber music. He is currently escaping
the hustle and bustle of the Orkneys to spend several months in Antarctica.
He received a knighthood from the British government in 1987.
The concert will feature three other works, opening with the "Concerto
Mediterraneo" of Linda Robbins Coleman. A graduate of Drake University,
Coleman has been in residence at the Drake Theater for the past 20 years
and was composer in residence for the Cedar Rapids Symphony 1994-96. The
"Concerto Mediterraneo" was commissioned by the Iowa Music Teachers
Association and premiered at its 1994 state convention. Its three movements
-- "Italiano," "Espagnol" and "Francais"
-- were inspired by cultures and artists that Coleman has studied and admired.
"Duo-Bagatelles" of Paul Siskind was composed in 1990. The
first of a projected series of short pieces for small mixed ensembles,
the score consists of five contrasting movements, each presenting a concise,
self-contained mood or gesture. The composer has characterized the "Duo
Bagatelles" as "virtuosic show pieces (that) present numerous
challenges to the performer."
Finally, violinist Angela Fuller will perform John Howell Morrison's
"Rising Blue" for violin and tape. An eclectic composer, Morrison
acknowledges influences as diverse as the Grateful Dead to bluegrass to
experimental 20th-century music. Morrison created "Rising Blue"
at the Presser Electronic Music Studio at Luther College in Decorah, where
he is assistant professor of music.
Robert Osborne has sung throughout the United States, Europe, Russia
and Asia, in performances with many leading conductors including Leonard
Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas and Seiji Ozawa. His operatic repertoire
includes more than 40 roles, and he has appeared with the Boston, Singapore,
New World and Schleswig-Holstein symphonies, among others.
William Randall Beard has had plays produced by Hothouse, a festival
of new plays, and the Red Eye Collaboration. He is currently working on
a commission from Hennepin County, Minn., and developing scripts for Chanhassen
Diner Theater and Ballet of the Dolls. As a journalist, he has written
the Advocate, Minnesota Monthly, Twin Cities Reader and City Pages. He
is theater and film critic for FocusPOINT in the Twin Cities.
A native of Seattle, Angela Fuller is a senior at the University of
Minnesota. She has performed the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Minnesota
Orchestra and will perform the Brahms Concerto this year as the winner
of the orchestra's 1998 WAMSO competition. She has performed as concertmaster
of the Seattle Youth Symphony, the Aspen Festival Opera Orchestra, the
Chautauqua Festival Orchestra and the University of Minnesota Symphony
A professional horn player as well as conductor and composer, Schulthess
has been a featured soloist with the Royal Academy of Music, London, and
was also a member of the Regent Wind Quintet. Since coming to America in
1991 he has performed with the Minnesota Orchestra and served as principal
horn of the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. He has worked closely with
leading composers including Elliott Carter, Luciano Berio, Hans Werner
Henze and Libby Larsen.
The performance of the Minnesota Contemporary Ensemble is made possible
in part by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Metropolitan Regional
Arts Council through an appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature, the
Iowa Composers Forum, the Best Western Inn on the Park--Madison, and the
American Composers Forum through its performance incentive fund which is
underwritten by the Knight Foundation.