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Release: Feb. 4, 2000

Iowa Woodwind Quintet will play both serious, whimsical works Feb. 14

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Iowa Woodwind Quintet, a resident faculty ensemble at the University of Iowa School of Music, will perform music from the serious to the whimsical during a free concert at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

All five works on the program were written in the 20th century. Three call for the full quintet, including the most obviously "serious" piece, the "Variacoes Serias" (Serious variations) by Rinaldo Miranda, along with the Quintet II by Alvin Etler and "Opus Number Zoo" by Luciano Berio. The two other works on the program are written for smaller groups from within the group, including the whimsical "Four 2-Bit Contraptions" by Jan Bach and the Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon of Heitor Villa-Lobos.

The first half of the program, featuring the pieces by Miranda and Villa Lobos, continues the quintet's recent interest in the music of Brazil, a country with a very active musical life. Two of the quintet's members are from Brazil -- flutist Tadeu Coelho and bassoonist Benjamin Coelho -- and the group traveled to Brazil last fall to perform and present workshops.

A native of Rio de Janeiro, Miranda began his musical career as a critic. He intensified his work as a composer when he won first prize in a festival of contemporary Brazilian music in 1977 and was selected the following year to represent Brazil at the UNESCO International Rostrum for Composers in Paris. Since then he has won numerous awards in Brazil including composer of the year in 1982 for his "Symphonic Variations," and he has completed works for many varied media.

Miranda has written that his "Serious Variations" were inspired by Mendelssohn's piano piece of the same name, a work he particularly admires. The score's 10 variations "alternate between the lyrical and the playful, from the urban 'modinha' of Portuguese flavor, to the spirit of a band-stand from Brazil's interior."

A self-described "child of nature" who "heard the aborigines' drums in the mysterious nights" of his native country, Villa-Lobos is widely considered one of the landmark composers of the 20th century. His stature was reflected in the comments of conductor Leopold Stokowski, who said "Villa-Lobos was one of the greatest composers of the 20th century because he was able to express, through his music, the immense diversity of life in Brazil, his native country." Composed in 1921, his Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon is one of the many chamber pieces Villa Lobos wrote covering an astonishing array of instrumental combinations.

Jan Bach teaches music theory and composition courses at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. A French horn player, he is known for his works for brass instruments, although he has written for virtually every live medium of vocal and instrumental performance. His music has been recognized with numerous composition awards and grants since 1957 when, at the age of 19, he won the Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) Student Composers first prize.

"Contraptions" is in four movements, each describing a different contraption -- although the word is used loosely by the composer. His description of the four movements is somewhat tongue in cheek: "Second Lieutenant: An R.O.T.C. officer whose military bearing does not quite conceal his true nature. Calliope: With delusions of grandeur, the organ of the BIG TOP attempts a romantic waltz. Gramophone: An early lo-fi phonograph plays broken-record variations on a 1920 dance theme. Pinwheel: This contraption leaves the players breathless."

Alvin Etler was born in Battle Creek, Iowa in 1913 and studied music at the University of Illinois. He later studied composition with Paul Hindemith at Yale, played oboe professionally and toured with the North American Wind Quintet. Although he wrote for practically all musical media other than opera, his most prolific work was for wind instruments, including quintets for woodwinds and brass and a Concerto for Woodwind Quintet and Orchestra.

The Italian-born composer Luciano Berio established a reputation in the 1950s and '60s as a member of the most advanced European avant garde. He founded a studio for experimental work on acoustics in Italy, and also worked with the composer Pierre Boulez at the Istitut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris, one of the leading institutions for new music in Europe. Later he taught at the Juilliard School in New York.

Berio is known as an extremely eclectic composer who makes use of folk songs and quotations from previous composers as well as the techniques of the avant garde. Nor are all of his works equally serious: his "Opus Number Zoo," written in 1951, is a children's play for woodwind quintet with text. The poems by Rhoda Levine include "Barn Dance," "Fawn," The Grey Mouse" and "Tom Cats."

The Iowa Woodwind Quintet has been in existence at the UI School of Music since about 1932. Its current members -- Tadeu Coelho, flute; Mark Weiger, oboe; Maurita Murphy Mead, clarinet; Kristin Thelander, horn; and Benjamin Coelho, bassoon -- are all members of the UI School of Music faculty.

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