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Release: Nov. 17, 2000

Timothy Stalter will conduct choral/orchestral works by Beethoven Nov. 29 at the UI

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Timothy Stalter, in his second year as director of choral activities at the University of Iowa School of Music, will conduct the University Symphony and Choruses in a free performance of two works by Beethoven, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29 in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.

To open the concert, pianist Uriel Tsachor will be featured in the rarely performed Fantasia for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra in C Minor, Op. 80. After intermission, the orchestra and choruses will perform the Mass in C major, Op. 86.

Choral forces for the concert will be drawn from several of the choruses in the School of Music: the University Choir and Kantorei, conducted by Stalter; Camerata, conducted by Richard Bloesch; and the Women's Chorale, conducted by graduate student Robert Boer.

Student soloists will be featured in both works. For the Choral Fantasy, they will be sopranos Kerri Middleton and Matthew Walker; alto Rachel Lebeck; tenors Clark Sturdevant and Michael Porter; and bass Dan Weinstein.

Soloists in the Mass in C major will be soprano Maria Gimenez, alto Rachel Lebeck, tenor Clark Sturdevant and bass John Spomer.

The choral portion of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia is often considered a preliminary work before the choral finale of the Ninth Symphony. It has several qualities in common with the climactic choral portion of the Ninth Symphony, most noticeably the fact that both choral sections provide positive, major-key endings to pieces that begin in a minor key.

The two works share a number of compositional techniques, as well. For example, both choral sections are series of variations, based on a very simple diatonic melody, and both alternate freely between choral sections and largely orchestral sections.

The choral portion of the Fantasia is preceded by the fantasy for solo piano, which Beethoven improvised at the first performance.

The Choral Fantasia was written very hastily in December 1808 to serve as the finale for a long and weighty concert that Beethoven presented at the Theater-an-der-Wien on Dec. 22. The concert was extremely long, beginning at 6:30 p.m. and continuing, with only one intermission, until 10:30. Part I of the program contained the composer’s Sixth Symphony, the Gloria from his Mass in C and the Fourth Piano Concerto. Part II started with the Fifth Symphony, followed by the Sanctus from the Mass in C, a Fantasia for solo piano and the new Choral Fantasia.

The Mass in C Major -- portions of which shared the December 1808 program with the Choral Fantasia -- was written only a year earlier. Early in 1807 Beethoven was invited by Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy -- the former employer of the great Joseph Haydn -- to write a Mass for the name day of the Prince’s wife. Haydn’s greatest Masses had been composed for these yearly celebrations and Beethoven hesitated to follow in his footsteps.

As it turned out, the premiere on Sept. 13, 1807, did not go well. The musicians were mediocre and reluctant to rehearse, the acoustics were poor, and Beethoven had little visual contact with the performing forces. At the end of the performance, the Prince reportedly commented, "But my dear Beethoven, just what is it you have done now?" Beethoven, who was also furious, withdrew his dedication to the Prince and later re-dedicated the Mass to Prince Ferdinand Kinsky, one of his prominent Viennese patrons.

Because this work was Beethoven's first attempt at writing a Mass, he relied on the Masses of Haydn as models. Nevertheless, he believed that this Mass struck out in new directions. As he wrote to his publisher, "This Mass . . . dear to my heart and in spite of the coldness of our age to such works. . . . I do believe that I have treated the text as it has been treated only rarely before." Beethoven described the entire Mass as "gentle," with an "overall serenity."

Uriel Tsachor joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in the fall of 1988. A Steinway artist, Tsachor was a winner of the Bosendorfer Empire International Competition in 1986 and the Busoni Competition in 1985, and a laureate of the Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition in 1983. He has performed as a soloist in Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, New York, Chicago, Vienna, Paris and other cities around the world.

Tsachor has performed with the Israel Philharmonic by invitation from Zubin Mehta. He has also appeared as soloist with the New York City Symphony, the Teatro La Fenice Symphony in Venice and the National Orchestra of Belgium, among others. He has performed both live and in recordings for radio and television stations in Israel, Europe and the United States, and he has made 18 recordings for the EMI, Musical Heritage Society, PHONIC, DIVOX, Olympia and EMS labels.

Stalter joined the UI faculty as director of choral activities in 1999. He directs Kantorei, the premier choral ensemble of the School of Music, teaches graduate conducting courses, and administers the graduate program in choral conducting. 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.

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