The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Oct. 29, 1999

Disselhorst plays works for organ, orchestra with University Symphony Nov. 10

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Two works featuring the unusual combination of organ and orchestra will fill the program of the University of Iowa Symphony when organist Delbert Disselhorst appears with the orchestra and director William LaRue Jones in a free concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The two works, comprising the entire program, will be the Symphonie concertante for organ and orchestra by Joseph Jongen and the Symphony No. 3, known as the "Organ Symphony" of Camille Saint-Saens.

Jongen is one of the best-known Belgian composers of the 20th century. A remarkable prodigy, he was admitted to the Conservatory in Liege at the age of seven. He started to compose at the age of 13, and by the time he was graduated from the conservatory he had earned brilliant distinctions in competitions in fugue, piano and organ. His String Quartet won the Belgian Royal Academy Competition in 1894, and three years later he won the Belgian Prix de Rome, enabling him to study composition in several other European countries.

A lengthy and distinguished career included teaching positions at the Leige and Brussels conservatories. He was conductor of the Concerts Spirituels, a society that performed sacred music in Brussels, and he served as director of the Brussels Conservatory for 14 years. A relatively conservative composer, Jongen did not embrace the avant-garde musical developments after World War II. He had completed more than 240 works, but at the end of his life he re-evaluated his works and withdrew all but 137 of them.

Disselhorst said that the Symphonie concertante, completed by Jongen in 1926, is "a definite audience pleaser. It used to be a showstopper for Virgil Fox -- he arranged it for solo organ and played it frequently. It has lots of bravura for the organ and a good bit of color."

Saint-Saens had a long and extremely productive life. Born in Paris in 1835, he lived until 1921. In his 86 years he wrote 13 operas, three symphonies, numerous orchestral tone poems, five piano concertos, three violin concertos, two cello concertos, chamber music, songs and choral works. In addition to all this compositional activity, he continued to perform as both a pianist and organist, areas in which he made his first public appearances. He was particularly famous as a pianist, giving the first performances of all of his own piano concertos.

Relatively little of his prolific output is still performed today. The "Carnival of the Animals" is his most popular work, the opera "Samson and Delilah" holds a place in the standard repertoire, and his concertos are still performed with some regularity by touring virtuosos. Perhaps because it requires a large pipe organ with the orchestra, the Third Symphony is performed only occasionally.

The symphony was commissioned by the London Philharmonic, which gave the first performance in London on May 19, 1886. It was conducted by the composer, who also played Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto on the same program. At the first Paris performance early in 1887 Charles Gounod, one of the most eminent composers in France, is supposed to have pointed to Saint-Saens and said, "There is the French Beethoven."

In contrast to Jongen, Saint-Saens does not treat the organ part as a virtuoso solo. Instead, it is fully integrated into the orchestral fabric, along with a piano part for two players, adding both brilliance and weight to the climactic moments of the symphony.

Disselhorst has been a member of the UI School of Music faculty since 1970. He holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from the University of Illinois, where he graduated as a Bronze Tablet Scholar. As a recipient of a Fulbright grant in organ, he also studied at the Staatliche Hochschule fuer Musik in Frankfurt, Germany. He earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan.

As a concert artist, Disselhorst has performed in the United States, Canada and Europe. He has appeared as a recitalist for several regional conventions and for the 1989 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists in Houston.

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.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at