The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Feb. 9, 2001

(NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: Agrell is pronounced "a-GRELL.")

Horn player/composer Agrell to celebrate homecoming with premieres

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Jeffrey Agrell -- horn player, composer and visiting faculty member at the University of Iowa School of Music -- will celebrate his return to America by playing his first UI faculty recital, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Agrell spent 25 years living and performing in Europe before joining the UI faculty last fall.

The program for his recital will include the world premieres of two pieces Agrell wrote for the occasion, as well as works by other American composers. Performing with Agrell will be music faculty members Shari Rhoads, piano, Kristin Thelander, natural horn, Daniel Moore percussion, and John Muriello as narrator; and UI students Evan Mazunik, piano, and. Brad Townsend, bass.

"If there is any common thread to this recital, it would be coming home to America," Agrell said. "It feels good to be back. After a quarter century living and playing abroad, it is a pleasure for me to be home again, both musically and culturally. The choice of pieces here reflects this: all are relatively recent and 'American' in some sense."

Agrell's works on the program will be "New Wine in Old Bottles" for two natural horns and percussion, performed with Thelander and Moore; and "Night Sonata" for horn, piano, bass, and percussion, with Mazunik, Townsend and Moore.

The other works on the program will be performed with Rhoads: "Three Sonnets" for horn, piano, and narrator by Anthony Plog, which will also feature Muriello; "Music for Horn and Piano" by Thea Musgrave; and the First Sonata for horn and piano by Alec Wilder.

As Agrell suggested, the American-ness of the pieces varies. His own pieces, he said, "represent influences from all over, classical and jazz, Europe and America." Plog is a native of California who has lived and worked in Europe for many years, while Musgrave is American in the other direction -- a native of Scotland who has lived in the United States for many years.

Wilder, however, is thoroughly American, having worked as a composer and arranger on the jazz, popular and classical scenes in New York from the 1930s until his death in 1980.

The title of Agrell's "New Wine in Old Bottles" refers to the use of old instruments -- "natural" horns, that have no valves -- to play new music. "As both a composer and a horn player,
I am always looking for pieces that are in some way new and different," Agrell said.

"The novel aspect of this piece is the use of classic-era natural horns in different keys to produce contemporary sound combinations. Percussion is added to enrich and enliven the rhythmic drive and the texture."

The "Night Sonata" represents a reaction to Agrell's 25 years of playing symphonic and operatic music. "At no time did I ever have the chance to create, rather than re-create, music for the horn," he said. "A yearning to join the other wind instruments that improvise led me to experiment with a piece which combines written-out sections with improvisation, and where the horn player has the opportunity to try his hand at improvising."

The score combines sections that are freely improvised by the players -- the opening and two internal section -- with sections that are fully written out.

At the UI, Agrell teaches undergraduate horn, directs the Horn Choir, coaches chamber music and performs with the Iowa Brass Quintet. Before coming to Iowa, he was a member of U.S. Army Bands from 1970 to 1973 and was associate principal horn with the Lucerne (Switzerland) Symphony Orchestra from 1975 until 2000. During that time he also performed chamber music throughout Europe.

Agrell began composing and arranging during his college years and played jazz guitar and electronic music in the 1980s. For the past decade he has had a steady stream of commissions from professional chamber music ensembles. Widely respected as performer, teacher and composer, Agrell has been invited to be a guest artist at the 2001 Workshop of the International Horn Society.

Agrell has a bachelor's degree from St. Olaf College and a master's degree in horn performance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He did further studies in Montreux (Switzerland) and at the Basel Conservatory. He has been on the editorial staff of two international brass journals and has more than 50 published articles to his credit.

Rhoads joined the UI School of Music faculty in the fall of 2000. Before arriving at the UI she taught music history in Switzerland. She has also been Kapellmeister at the Lucerne Theater and conductor/coach at the opera theater in Darmstadt, Germany. Her accompanying credentials include recitals with Jose Carreras, Luis Lima and Montserrat Caballe with whom she worked exclusively as coach/accompanist and orchestrator. She has accompanied master classes with a number of renowned artists including singer Gerard Souzay, cellist Lynn Harrell and violist William Primrose.

Thelander joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in 1989 and was elected director of the School of Music in 2000. Active as both soloist and chamber musician, she is a member of the Iowa Brass Quintet. As a guest artist she performed a solo with the Chinese National Opera Orchestra for the opening concert of the International Horn Symposium held in Beijing in July, 2000. During the summer she performs with the Britt Festival Orchestra in Jacksonville, Ore.

An internationally known percussionist, composer and teacher, Moore has experience from concert to marching percussion, and from jazz to classical styles. Performing all aspects of percussion, including keyboard percussion, drum set, ethnic and multi-percussion, he is considered a "total percussionist." He is a performing artist for the Yamaha Corporation of America, Sabian Ltd., and Innovative Percussion. He has written for Jazz Player, Sticks and Mallets and Percussive Notes magazines.

A singer whose work ranges from opera and operetta to concert and musical theater, Muriello joined the UI School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997. His most recent engagements include performances as Captain Corcoran in "H.M.S. Pinafore" with the Skylight Opera Theatre in Milwaukee, and the Riverside theatre's production of "Sweet and Hot." This spring, he will take the title role of the UI Marthe-Ellen Tye Opera Theater production of Kirke Meechem's "Tartuffe."

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.