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Release: Feb. 18, 2000

Kantorei to perform 17th-century musical setting of Easter story Feb. 28

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Kantorei, the premiere vocal ensemble of the University of Iowa School of Music, will perform the "Matthaeuspassion" ("St. Matthew Passion") of Heinrich Schuetz, one of the earliest major choral settings of the Easter story, as part of a free concert at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 28 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Timothy Stalter, director of choral activities at the School of Music, will conduct the performance.

The "St. Matthew Passion" will comprise the second half of the program. For the first half, Kantorei will perform five works based on texts about the life of Jesus. The concert will open with three settings of a liturgical text from the Christmas season, "Hodie Christus natus est" (Christ is born today), by Jan Sweelinck, Niels La Cour and Healey Willan. Kantorei will also perform "Jesus and the Traders" by Zoltan Kodaly and "Hosanna to the Son of David" by Thomas Weelkes.

Heinrich Schuetz is considered the greatest German composer of the 17th century, and he is often described as the first German composer of international stature. He spent most of his life as a musician at the court of Saxony in Dresden, with short interludes in Italy, at the court of the King of Denmark, and other locations.

Due to the 30-Years War the resources of the Saxon court were sometimes very limited and at other times extensive. Consequently, Schuetz composed works for a wide variety of combinations, from a few singers with one or two instruments to magnificent multi-choir settings. His life also spanned one of the greatest transitions in the history of European music, from the contrapuntal music of the Renaissance to the chord-based music of the early Baroque period. Since Schuetz mastered all the styles of his times, his music is extremely varied.

Composed in 1665, Schuetz's "St. Matthew Passion" was part of a long tradition of musical settings of the passion drama that began with chanted performances in the Middle Ages and extended through choral settings in the late Renaissance period. Most of these earlier works are forgotten today, however, while Schuetz's setting of the "St. Matthew Passion" -- for unaccompanied chorus and soloists -- is still regarded as one of the most dramatic and imposing works of the early Baroque.

Schuetz dramatizes the passion story in music, using soloists for Jesus, Judas, Peter, Pontius Pilate, and other characters. The Biblical narration is sung by a tenor soloist -- the Evangelist -- and the chorus represents high priests, the disciples and the crowd.

Student soloists for the Kantorei performance were selected by audition. They will include Rainer Weissenberger as the Evangelist; John Spomer as Jesus; Oliver Stoutner as Judas; and Gregory Milliron as Peter.

Stalter joined the UI faculty as director of choral activities in August. He directs Kantorei, teaches graduate conducting courses, and administers the graduate program in choral conducting. He has research interests in teaching conducting to undergraduate students and historical musical performance. An active member of the American Choral Directors Association, he frequently presents clinics and workshops in choral conducting around the United States.

In addition to conducting and teaching choral music, Stalter is active as a tenor soloist in the United States and abroad. A specialist in the music of the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods, he is known for his performances as the Evangelist in the Passions of J.S. Bach and Heinrich Schuetz. He has appeared as tenor soloist with the Newfoundland Symphony, the North Carolina Symphony, the Robert Shaw Festival Singers in France, the Robert Shaw Chamber Choir in Atlanta, the Classical Music Seminar and Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria, and the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival. He has recorded as tenor soloist with conductor Robert Shaw on two compact discs released on the Telarc label.

Prior to coming to the UI, Stalter was on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Goshen College in Indiana. He received a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, where he studied with renowned choral conductor Robert Fountain, and a master's from the University of Illinois, where he studied with Don Moses, who was UI director of choral activities in the 1980s.

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