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Release: April 2, 1999

Retiring UI music faculty member D. Martin Jenni will be honored at concert April 11

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Center for New Music will present a concert in honor of Donald Martin Jenni, a professor of music theory and composition in the UI School of Music who is retiring at the end of the current semester. The performance, which will be free and open to the public, will be at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 11 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The program will feature music by Jenni, current and former students, and a colleague on the School of Music faculty. Performers will include pianist Rene Lecuona, a member of the School of Music faculty, playing a piece that Jenni wrote for her. Other performers from the Center for New Music will be students in the School of Music.

Jenni, who has a master's degree in medieval studies from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in composition from Stanford, has been on the UI School of Music faculty since 1968. He has composed several works for the Center for New Music, the University Symphony and his School of Music faculty colleagues. Among the latter have been "Musica dell'Autunno" for organist Delbert Disselhorst, "Long Hill May" for flutist Betty Mather, "Night Music" for string bassist Eldon Obrecht, "Canto" for pianist Lecuona and "RAGAMALIKA" for clarinetist Maurita Murphy Mead.

Jenni also founded and continues to direct the Cantores, a choir specializing in the performance of Gregorian chant. For several years he directed the Composers Workshop, a collaborative project between composers and performers in the UI School of Music devoted to the performance of music written at the UI.

The April 11 concert will open with a series of pieces performed in Jenni's honor. Four were composed just this year as a tribute to his retirement and will be receiving their premieres on the concert: "Homage a Martin Jenni (multum amas)" for voice, flute, cello, piano and percussion by Jenni's former student Curt Veeneman; ". . . then ease down . . ." for string quartet by former student Jonathan Monhardt; "Falleluia" for vibraphone by former student Robert Rowe; and "Forma Partis" for clarinet solo by Lawrence Fritts, the director of the UI Electronic Music Studio.

Also on the first half of the program will be "Three Prisms" for clarinet solo from 1977 by Jenni's former student Christopher Hills.

Several of the scores written in honor of Jenni's retirement are accompanied by written tributes to his qualities as a teacher and colleague. Rowe wrote in the program notes for "Falleluia," "I was a composition student of Martin Jenni from 1976-78 and a friend ever since. I learned more from him than I can possibly list."

Veeneman began his program note "I have always had great respect and admiration for my one-time teacher and now friend and colleague Martin Jenni." Veeneman explains that his homage to Jenni is based on a text by the medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen that so "neatly fit the purpose of the present work that I had to incorporate it: 'O fortunate soul and O sweet creation of God, you who have been created in the profound height of God's wisdom, you love many things'.

"What has always impressed me most about Martin," Veeneman continues, "is, as the text states, his love for many things."

Four of Jenni's works will be performed as the second half of the concert: "Musique Printaniere" for flute and piano; "Canto" for piano solo, performed by Lecuona; "Per Elysios:
Wm. H. in Memoriam" for oboe, horn, viola and harpsichord; and "Cucumber Music" for alto flute/piccolo, viola/toy piano, glockenspiel/vibraphone and piano/celeste.

"Per Elysios" was written in memory of William Hibbard, musical director for the Center for New Music from its founding in 1966 until his death in1989. Jenni described the piece as "gentle, singing, spacious, haunted by the pitches B-flat, B-natural (B, H as the Germans call them). It reflects, modestly, lessons learned from two beloved masters (French 17th-century composer) Francois Couperin and William Hibbard himself, who, over two collegial decades, shared many discoveries."

Jenni has written about "Cucumber Music," "Anyone who has made music with others in a small ensemble knows the remarkable intimacy of mutually discovering a composition (and oneself and one's fellow musicians). In' Cucumber Music' I meant to explore that experience as a shaping element of the work.

"I made 'Cucumber Music' during my third semester at Iowa, in 1969. It was the second work composed expressly for the CNM. I have long since forgotten how on earth it came to bear its working title, though I do like cucumbers."

The Center for New Music is directed by UI music faculty member David Gompper. Founded in 1966 with a seed grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the center promotes the performance of new music by providing a core group of specialists in contemporary performance techniques. Its programming has included world premieres as well as acknowledged contemporary masterworks.

In November 1998, an East Coast tour by the center included a performance at Merkin Hall in New York City and by invitation at the final performance of the Region I Conference of Society of Composers, Inc., at Connecticut College in New London. Critic Paul Griffiths opened his New York Times review of the Merkin Hall concert by observing that "an ensemble of faculty and graduate students from the University of Iowa performed strongly Tuesday night," and he praised Gompper for "the concert's clarity and directness."

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