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Release: Oct. 20, 2000

Violinist La Fosse, pianist Lecuona will observe Bach anniversary

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Leopold La Fosse, the versatile violinist and faculty member at the University of Iowa School of Music who plays virtuoso solo recitals, chamber music, historical instrument concerts and jazz, will join the world-wide observance of the 250th anniversary of the death of J.S. Bach with two recitals of Bach’s sonatas for violin and keyboard, with pianist Rene Lecuona, at 8 p.m. Sundays Nov. 5 and 12 in Clapp Recital Hall.

Their UI faculty recitals are free and open to the public.

Bach is credited with six sonatas for violin and keyboard, as well as two sonatas for violin with basso continuo, which implies both cello and keyboard. Cellist Amos Yang will assist with the latter works.

Each of the recitals will feature three of the sonatas for violin and keyboard, as well as one sonata with basso continuo. On Nov. 5, the program will be the Sonata in G major for violin and basso continuo, BWV 1021, followed by Sonatas 1-3 for violin and keyboard, BWV 1014-16, in
B minor, A major and E major respectively. On Nov. 12 the program will be the Sonata in E major for violin and basso continuo, BWV 1023, followed by Sonatas 4-6 for violin and keyboard, BWV 1017-19, in C minor, F minor and G major.

"The chamber music works of J.S. Bach command a special place in the repertoire being performed today throughout the concert halls of the world," La Fosse commented. "Of course, that is especially true in the year 2000, the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death."

In his sonatas -- including works for keyboard with flute and with viola da gamba, as well as the violin sonatas -- Bach was one of the first composers to treat the keyboard instrument as an equal partner with the solo instrument. This anticipated the partnership of diverse instruments, which became the rule in the chamber music of the Classic and Romantic periods, as opposed to the earlier Baroque model of the keyboard as an accompanying voice playing chords underneath a soloist.

But as La Fosse stresses, the balance between the keyboard and the soloist is crucial. "Since all three voices are equally important, it is essential that the two parts written for the keyboard player be heard at the same acoustic level as the violin," he explains.

"We have chosen to use the violin I normally use for recitals of Classical, Romantic and 20th-century repertoire -- made by J.B. Guadugnini in 1776 -- instead of a Baroque instrument, and to balance it with the modern Steinway grand piano that Rene will play.

"In the Baroque era, performance spaces were normally far smaller than our own Clapp Recital Hall. In these smaller spaces, the listener could hear instruments with very limited tonal projection. However, our experience is that the harpsichords available to us in Clapp Hall are not capable of projecting enough sound to be heard at a level equal with other solo instruments. Therefore, we chose the modern instruments for both performers."

La Fosse joined the UI music faculty in 1972. His performing career has included extensive solo appearances as well as concertmaster positions with five orchestras. He made his first public appearance at the age of four, and he began a three-year series of engagements on NBC radio at eight. He later studied at the New England Conservatory. Before coming to the UI he taught at the University of Texas at Austin.

At the UI he teaches violin and directs a group of students devoted to the performance of Baroque and early Classic music, the La Fosse Baroque Ensemble. He has also done extensive research in string pedagogy. He has twice been to Brazil as a Fulbright lecturer and returns annually to perform, teach and give master classes.

La Fosse continues an active international career as soloist and chamber musician, with tours in the United States, Europe, South America and Russia. He has had performances at Wigmore Hall in London, Sala Cecilia Mireles in Rio de Janeiro, Town Hall in New York, and the National Gallery, Phillips Gallery and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He recently appeared as soloist in a concert devoted to concertos by Bach at the Kunsthistorischeses Museum in Vienna as well as a recital devoted to the same sonatas as he will perform at Clapp Recital Hall in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In 1997 he celebrated his 25th anniversary on the UI faculty with a series of four recitals displaying his versatility, appearing as a virtuoso soloist, a chamber musician, a Baroque performance specialist and a jazz violinist.

Lecuona maintains an active teaching and performing schedule at the UI School of Music, including frequent collaborations with her faculty colleagues. Since joining the faculty in1990 she has appeared in more than 55 on-campus concerts. She is featured on several CD recordings, including one with double bassist Diana Gannett of chamber music by Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms. In a recent review of the CD in Bass World, Lecuona’s performance on the recording was described as "magnificent."

Lecuona has given solo and chamber music recitals throughout the United States, South America and the Caribbean. Most recently she performed and presented master classes in Mexico. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in a chamber performance in Weill Recital Hall in 1993, and she has appeared as concerto soloist with orchestras in New York and Iowa. As an Artistic Ambassador for the United States, she has given concerts and master classes in Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago. She has also performed solo recitals and given master classes at many universities in Brazil.

An advocate of 20th-century music, Lecuona has appeared as solo pianist and chamber musicians in concerts of the UI Center for New Music. Her 20th-century repertoire includes several premieres of new works. Martin Jenni, recently retired from the UI School of Music, has written two solo piano works for her.

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