CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Sept. 10, 1999
University Symphony opens millennium-spanning season
with free concert Sept. 22
NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: Frank Martin is pronounced
frahnk mahr-TEH ("EH" pronounced like the a in tang but without the "ng".)
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra
will open its millennium-spanning 1999-2000 season with a free concert under
director William LaRue Jones at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22, in Hancher Auditorium
on the UI campus.
Featured soloist for the performance will be baritone
Stephen Swanson, a member of the UI School of Music faculty.
The 1999-2000 season will feature the orchestra's traditional
series of free Wednesday evening concerts in Hancher Auditorium, along with
performances in Clapp Recital Hall, and a special millennium celebration:
a performance of Beethoven's monumental Ninth Symphony with guest soloists
in Hancher on Dec. 1.
Other concerts through the coming season will feature
several members of the School of Music faculty as soloists and a wide variety
The program of the Sept. 22 season-opening concert will
include three works by American composers: "El Salon Mexico" by Aaron Copland,
William Grant Still's "Afro-American" Symphony, and "Overture for the End
of a Century" by Libby Larsen.
Swanson will be featured in "Sechs Monologe aus Jedermann"
(Six monologues from Everyman) by Swiss composer Frank Martin, settings of
texts from an ancient English morality play adapted into German.
"This is a program that parallels the diversity of America,"
Jones said. "You have a piece using Mexican themes by a Jewish Russian-American
from Brooklyn, a piece about the African-American heritage by an African-American
from Mississippi, and a piece with an American vernacular influence by a Scandinavian-American
who lives in Minneapolis.
"Add to that a piece about the human condition by a Swiss
composer, and you have a mosaic as complex as any slice of America."
Copland's "El Salon Mexico" was first performed by the
Mexico Symphony Orchestra in 1937, under the direction of the distinguished
Mexican composer Carlos Chavez. Copland explained that the piece was based
on "musical souvenirs" that he picked up during a 1932 visit to Mexico:
"From the very beginning the idea of writing a work based
on popular Mexican melodies was connected in my mind with a popular dance
hall in Mexico City called Salon Mexico. No doubt I realized, then, that it
would be foolish of me to attempt to translate into musical sounds the more
profound side of Mexico. . . . All that I could hope to do was to reflect
the Mexico of the tourists, and that is why I thought of the Salon Mexico.
. . . It wasn't the music I heard but the spirit that I felt there that attracted
me. Something of that spirit is what I hope to have put into my music."
William Grant Still was the son of the town bandmaster
of Woodville, Miss. Like many composers before him, he started to study medicine
but soon became deeply involved in musical activities. He had a stunning variety
of early musical experiences: studies at Oberlin Conservatory, playing violin
in an Army Orchestra in World War I, playing oboe in W.C. Handy's "Shuffle
Along Orchestra," composition studies with the avant-garde composer Edgar
Varese, and then with the academically respectable George Whitefield Chadwick
at the New England Conservatory of Music.
His Symphony No. 1 ("Afro-American"), based on spirituals,
blues and other music of the African American tradition, in 1931 became the
first symphony by a black American to be played by a leading orchestra. Composed
at a time when America was seeking its own nationalist identity in music,
the symphony struck a wide response in audiences. Through a long career Still
remained known for his nationalist works that employed African-American and
other folk idioms.
A pioneer in the musical world, Still was the first black
American to conduct a major orchestra, the first to have an opera performed
by a major company, and one of the first to write for radio, film and television.
He received many honors, including a Guggenheim fellowship, honorary doctorates
and numerous awards from American orchestras.
In the past 20 years, Libby Larsen has become one of the
most important and successful composers in the United States, including a
composition commissioned by the UI Hancher Auditorium. Her works encompass
orchestra, dance, opera, choral, theater, chamber and solo repertoire, and
are performed throughout the United States and Europe. Her music often reflects
the American vernacular tradition. She has served as composer-in-residence
with the Minnesota Orchestra and the Charlotte Symphony, and is an adviser
to the National Endowment for the Arts, ASCAP and the American Symphony Orchestra
The "Overture for the End of a Century" was premiered
in 1994 by conductor David Gilbert and the National Honors Orchestra at the
National Music Education Convention in Cincinnati.
A native of Geneva, Switzerland, Frank Martin was a Calvinist
whose works often reflected his religious and moral values. The texts he selected
for his "Sechs Monologe" had been translated from English by the great German
playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal. In his adaptation of the medieval morality
play "Everyman," Hofmannsthal created a powerful commentary on life and mortality.
His "Jedermann" became a revered theater piece for German-speaking actors,
and was for many years the opening production of the annual Salzburg festival.
Unrelated to theatrical productions, Martin's settings
of six monologues from the play form a cycle that addresses the same issues
in musical terms. The original vocal setting was written in 1943, a time when
Switzerland was in the center of war-torn Europe. The orchestral version was
created after World War II, in 1949.
A student ensemble that is supported by the UI School
of Music, the University Symphony has been presenting free concerts on the
UI campus since 1921. In its 78-year history, the University Symphony has
had three major conductors: Founder Philip Greeley Clapp, who was conductor
of the orchestra 1936-1954; James Dixon, who was conductor 1954-59 and from
1962 until his retirement in 1997; and Jones, who succeeded Dixon.
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. 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.).
Stephen Swanson joined the faculty of the UI School of
Music in 1994. For nearly 20 years before that date he had an active operatic
career in Europe. During that time his repertoire grew to more than 70 roles
in opera, operetta and musicals. He has sung on German, Austrian and Dutch
radio broadcasts and has been a featured soloist in European festivals including
the Berliner Festwochen, the Days of Contemporary Music in Dresden and the
Festa Musica Pro in Assisi, Italy.
Swanson recently took part in the Viktor Ullman-Projekt
1998, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of a composer who
died in the Nazi death camps. Swanson sang major roles in Ullman's operas
at performances in Europe, at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and
at the Martyr's Museum in Los Angeles.
Swanson has also had an extensive career as a concert
singer, appearing as featured soloist with many U.S. orchestras, including
the Chicago Symphony under Sir Georg Solti, Raphael Fruehbeck de Burgos and
Margaret Hillis. He has recorded Mendelssohn's "St. Paul" and Ullmann's "Der
Kaiser von Atlantis." He made his professional debut in 1970, singing in Arnold
Schoenberg's opera "Moses and Aron" with the Chicago Symphony in Chicago and
New York's Carnegie Hall.
For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiowacr
on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/.
University Symphony Millennium Season:
Sept. 22: University Symphony, William LaRue Jones, conductor,
with Stephen Swanson, baritone. 8 p.m., Hancher Auditorium.
Oct. 20: University Symphony, William LaRue Jones, conductor,
with Christine Rutledge, viola. 8 p.m., Hancher Auditorium
Nov. 10: University Symphony, William LaRue Jones, conductor,
with Delbert Disselhorst, organ. 8 p.m., Clapp Recital Hall
Nov. 21: University Chamber Orchestra with Kantorei, Timothy
Stalter, conductor. 3 p.m., Clapp Recital Hall.
Dec. 1: Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, op. 125.
University Symphony and Choruses, William LaRue Jones, conductor, with
guest artists. 8 p.m., Hancher Auditorium.
Feb. 9: University Symphony, William LaRue Jones, conductor.
8 p.m., Hancher Auditorium.
March 8: University Symphony, William LaRue Jones, conductor.
8 p.m., Hancher Auditorium.
April 5: University Symphony and Choruses, Timothy Stalter,
conductor. 8 p.m., Hancher Auditorium.