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University Symphony features UI quartet in residence at Sept. 23 season opener

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Three beginnings will occur at once when the University of Iowa Symphony and conductor William LaRue Jones opens the orchestra's 1998-99 concert season with a free performance at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23 in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.

It will, of course, be the first concert of a new season for the student orchestra. It will be the beginning of Jones' second year at the UI -- and his first in a permanent faculty position at the UI School of Music, following a year in a visiting appointment. And the program will feature the first performance on campus of the Maia Quartet, the UI School of Music's new Quartet in Residence, as soloists in Edward Elgar's Introduction and Allegro for string quartet and string orchestra.

Other works on the program will be the Water Music Suite of George Frideric Handel and the Symphony No. 5 of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

The Maia Quartet was selected last spring for the UI residency by members of the string faculty at the School of Music. The quartet -- Amy Kuhlmann Apold and Timothy Shiu, violins; Elizabeth Oakes, viola; and Amos Yang, cello -- is also quartet-in-residence with the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra of Lafayette, La., serving as principal string players in the orchestra. They will be visiting assistant professors at the UI School of Music.

The Maia Quartet will be in residence on the UI campus three times during the 1998-99 academic year and will play a free concert in Clapp Recital Hall during each residence period: at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4 and at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 11.

Handel composed the "Water Music" in 1717 for what was surely the most famous barge party in music history. A few years earlier Handel had been court music director to the Elector of Hanover in Germany. He received a leave of absence to travel to England, where he had two operas produced in 1712 and 1713, wrote music for the birthday of Queen Anne, and generally enjoyed great artistic and financial success. He overstayed his leave, however, and when the Queen died in 1714 Handel's former employer, the Elector of Hanover, became King of England.

There seems to be no truth to the legend that Handel wrote the "Water Music" to effect a reconciliation with the king. In fact, George I was consistently generous to his former music director. In any case, when the King held a party on the Thames on July 17, 1717, the royal boat was followed by a barge on which 50 musicians were playing Handel's score. Later music written for the barge party was combined with earlier pieces by Handel to produce the score we know today as "Water Music."

Edward Elgar was the most accomplished, the most famed, and remains the most appreciated English composer of the late Romantic period. Several of his best known works have become unmistakable musical symbols of Victorian England: the set of five military marches titled "Pomp and Circumstance," of which the first is familiar from countless graduation ceremonies; the sacred oratorio "The Dream of Gerontius"; the concert overture "Cockaigne (In London Town)"; and his most loved orchestral work, Variations on an Original Theme (known as the "Enigma" Variations).

In addition to these familiar staples of the concert and recording repertoire, Elgar wrote a number of chamber works and concertos that are performed less frequently. Particularly unfamiliar to American audiences is the Introduction and Allegro for string quartet and string orchestra -- ironically so, since the score was composed with American audiences in mind. Dedicated to Professor S. S. Stanford of Yale University, it was composed 1904-05 for Elgar's upcoming trip to the United States to accept an honorary doctorate from Yale and conduct his music.

The circumstances surrounding the composition of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony are well known. A rising young Russian composer, Shostakovich was shocked when, on Jan. 28, 1936, an article in Pravda titled "Muddle Instead of Music" attacked him by name and brutally condemned his opera "Lady McBeth of the Mtsensk District." Under threat of being pulled into the Soviet Gulag, Shostakovich quickly withdrew his Fourth Symphony, then in preparation, and his music disappeared from Russian concert stages.

Then in one of the most dramatic reversals of music history, Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, premiered Nov. 27, 1937, proved an astonishing success. The audience at the premiere gave Shostakovich a lengthy standing ovation with countless curtain calls, and Soviet officials and critics were unanimous in their praise. The symphony went on to win audiences on both sides of communism's "iron curtain," and it has remained a popular part of the orchestral repertoire worldwide.

Nevertheless, historical and critical interpretations of the symphony have differed widely. Some have regarded it as a cowardly capitulation to Stalin's power and an insincere adoption of the Soviet Realist style in music. The symphony's accessibility, its clear melodies and relatively consonant harmonies, and particularly the apparently triumphal finale -- all requisite ingredients of Soviet Realism -- further bolstered this point of view.

On the other hand, recent interpretations have stressed the hidden nature of most artistic protest under the Soviet system. In this view the Fifth Symphony does not capitulate to Soviet Realism so much as it subverts it, and the finale, previously criticized as vulgar and bombastic, becomes a deliberate parody of Soviet triumphalism. Thus, the different layers of meaning, like all protest in the Soviet Union, were concealed from the Soviet authorities but clear to Russian audiences.

A UI music alumnus, Jones joined the faculty of the School of Music in 1997 as director of the University Symphony and director of orchestral studies. He replaced James Dixon, the director of the orchestra for more than 40 years, who retired at the end of the 1996-97 academic year. Prior to joining the UI faculty, Jones was the founding music director/administrator of the internationally recognized Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.

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 is conductor of the Bloomington (Minn.) Symphony and has appeared as a guest conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra, 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.).

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

The Maia Quartet was founded in 1990 when the four members were students at the Cleveland Institute of Music. The quartet has played concerts at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, for the "Music the Great Hall" series in Baltimore, at the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center, and as visiting artists at Harris Hall of the Aspen Music Festival. Their collaborations with leading chamber musicians have included performances with flutist Samuel Baron and violist Michael Tree of the Guarneri Quartet. They have performed world premieres of works by Pierre Jalbert, Donald Grantham, Jeffrey Mumford and Ingram Marshall.

The Maia Quartet is also recognized for its educational outreach activities. The ensemble recently completed a three-year project in partnership with the Aspen Music Festival under a grant from the Lila Wallace Foundation, aimed at building adult audiences through a series of innovative programs exploring the relationship between music and other art forms.

Performances for children have included a family concert at Lincoln Center on the Metropolitan Opera's "Growing Up with Opera and Friends" series and appearances for ArtsExcel, Young Audiences, Inc. and the Midori Foundation.