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Release: February 26, 1999

University Symphony will play Beethoven and Stravinsky scores March 10

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Symphony will perform two works that are landmarks of the 19th and 20th centuries -- Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Stravinsky's ballet "The Rite of Spring" -- in a concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 10 in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.

The concert, under the direction of William LaRue Jones, will be free and open to the public.

Both pieces on the program were written near the beginning of their respective centuries -- Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in 1808 and Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" in 1913. Considered among the greatest and most influential musical works of their times, both compositions helped shape the course of musical developments that followed them.

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is one of the most familiar and immediately recognizable pieces of Classical music ever written. The four-note theme (da-da-da-DUM), stated at the beginning and repeated through many variations and stages of development throughout the symphony's four movements, has stood for "fate knocking at the door," and, due to its similarity to the Morse-code pattern for "V," has symbolized allied victory in World War II.

The symphony has been played thousands of times all over the world, but audiences seemingly never tire of music that appears to follow a great dramatic course, from an initial struggle with fate to triumphant victory in the final movement.

Beethoven wrote the Fifth Symphony in 1807-08, at a time when he was a familiar public figure in Vienna, well known as a composer and a pianist. This was also a time when deafness had begun to take its toll on both his daily personal life and his performing career, a fact that has led many to identify the struggle portrayed in the symphony with Beethoven's own personal struggle with his tragic fate.

The symphony received its first performance at a concert in Vienna on Dec. 22, 1808. Lasting more than four hours, the event was as much a musical marathon as a concert: The program included the first performances of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Fourth Piano Concerto, portions of the Mass in C, several smaller pieces and, to wrap it all up for anyone left in the theater, the Choral Fantasy.

The highly dramatic nature of the music; the unifying effect of the opening rhythm, which returns in the later movements; the sense of struggle leading to a culminating finale -- in all of these ways Beethoven's Fifth was a new kind of symphony. More than entertainment, it was a powerful dramatic work, and it became a model that later composers of symphonies, from Brahms and Dvorak to Mahler and Shostakovich, had to contend with.

Stravinsky's music for the ballet "The Rite of Spring" is, in its way, as famous as Beethoven's symphony, but for far different reasons. Utterly unlike anything that had ever been heard before, its first performance, given in Paris in 1913, sparked a riot in the audience that drowned out the music and became one of the great artistic scandals of the 20th century. The choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky stood backstage screaming out the beats for the dancers, who could not hear the orchestra, and many stories have been told of audience members who screamed, shouted or pounded on each other -- either carried away with excitement or infuriated by the music -- during the performance.

Following the tumultuous premiere, "The Rite of Spring" was performed in concert by orchestras throughout Europe and the United States, generating controversy wherever it went. But Stravinsky's complex dissonances, pounding rhythms and insistent motivic patterns also generated excitement and enthusiasm, and the ballet's scenario of primitive ritual soon started a craze for so-called "primitivist" pieces. One of the most influential pieces of the 20th century, "The Rite of Spring" spawned many imitators but it has never been excelled by any orchestral music for sheer visceral excitement.

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.