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Release: Sept. 3, 1999

UI Center for New Music presents two concerts of contemporary Austrian music Sept. 18

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Center for New Music is highlighting one of the newest and most important centers of contemporary music in Europe-- Graz, Austria -- with a two-concert mini-festival at 3 and 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Billed as an Austrian Contemporary Music Festival, the two programs will present exclusively music by composers based at the Hochschule fuer Musik und Darstellend Kunst (Academy for music and visual arts) in Graz.

A flexible organization devoted to the performance of music composed in the 20th century, the Center for New Music is directed by David Gompper, a faculty member in the theory and composition area of the UI School of Music. Membership in the center's performing ensemble includes both faculty and students of the School of Music.

In the United States, Graz is not nearly as well known as Vienna and Salzburg -- historically Austria's most important musical centers. But Gompper says that Graz is fast becoming one of the most important centers for new music in Europe. "This is because of the Musikhochschule (Music conservatory)," he says. "No other school in Austria has as many composers on the music faculty as the Hochschule in Graz."

Gompper explained that this is in some ways an unlikely development for Graz, a largely industrial city of about 250,000. Graz is mostly known for science and engineering: the astronomers Johannes Kepler and Nicolaus Copernicus both lived in Graz, and motors for BMW and other car manufacturers are designed there.

"And yet," Gompper says, "Graz has one of the most important schools of composition in Europe, along with Paris and Berlin. They have had an avant-garde music program at the Hochschule since the 1980s, and today they are the most liberal of the music schools in Austria."

The two programs Sept. 18 will feature the music of two generations of composers from the Hochschule in Graz. The afternoon concert will present the works of members of the younger generation of faculty composers -- Klaus Johns, Robert Hoeldrich, Klaus Lang, Peter Lackner and Joachim Jung -- and the evening concert will present works by a more established, slightly older group of composers -- Beat Furrer, Georg Haas, Bernhard Lang, Gerd Kuehr and Helmut Dencker.

Of the composers on the two programs, five will be present at the UI for the performance: Bernhard Lang, Klaus Lang, Furrer, Jung and Lackner. During visits of up to two weeks, the composers will work with the performers to help prepare the two concerts. They will also give private tutorials to composition students and speak to graduate seminars in the School of Music.

The Center for New Music was 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 20th-century 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."

In 1986 the center received the Commendation of Excellence from Broadcast Music, Inc., the world's largest performing rights organization, and it recently received grants from the Aaron Copland Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. Today, the Center for New Music is supported by the UI School of Music.

Gompper joined the music theory and composition faculty of the UI School of Music in 1991. He has received numerous awards for his academic and musical achievements, including the Charles E. Ives Prize for composition from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a Composers Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

His "Lament for Bosnia" was premiered last December by the UI Symphony and Choruses as part of "Global Focus: Human Rights '98," the UI's year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Of his other compositions, "Transitus" was premiered at Carnegie Hall and "Flip" was premiered by the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra.

Recently, Gompper traveled to Thessaloniki, Greece and the University of Auckland in New Zealand to lecture on current American musical trends in composition. Last May, he performed a concert of his works and lectured at the Moscow Conservatory of Music in Russia. He has also served as a cultural specialist for the United States Information Agency in Kwangju, South Korea.

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