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Release: March 23, 2001

Violinist Leopold La Fosse and pianist Ksenia Nosikova will present a free recital April 8

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Two major sonatas by French composers and some Italian music by a Russian will be on the program when violinist Leopold La Fosse and pianist Ksenia Nosikova, faculty members at the University of Iowa School of Music, present a free recital at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 8 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

La Fosse and Nosikova will perform the "Suite Italienne" of Igor Stravinsky and the sonatas of Cesar Franck and Claude Debussy. Although they represent three very different styles, all three works were written in years around the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, when the Romantic style gave way to a wide variety of compositional possibilities.

"The Franck Sonata is probably the most popular work being programmed on violin and piano recitals throughout the entire world," La Fosse commented. "The Debussy Sonata is a standard work in the 20th-century literature for violin and piano, and I have always found the Stravinsky a fascinating piece, with its combination of Baroque ideas and their 20th-century treatment by Stravinsky."

The earliest of the three works, Franck’s Sonata was written in 1886 when the composer -- one of the leaders of Romanticism in France -- was 63. Franck made his career principally as an organist, playing at the church of Ste.-Clotilde in Paris for more than 30 years and teaching organ at the Paris Conservatory. In addition to music for organ, he composed operas and oratorios, as well as a limited number of orchestral and chamber pieces.

The Violin Sonata was composed as a wedding gift for the great Belgian violinist Eugene Ysaye. The premiere of the sonata, presented by Ysaye and pianist Leontine Marie Bordes-Pene in an unlighted museum hall in Brussels, has become legendary. The performance ran late, and since no artificial light was allowed, the performers had to finish the performance from memory, playing in the gathering darkness to a spellbound audience.

In addition to his well known orchestral and piano pieces, Debussy wrote a small amount of chamber music. Most are unique works, representing his only major compositions in their individual genres. The String Quartet of 1893 is among those works, along with three sonatas -- part of a projected set of six that was not completed -- composed in the last years of Debussy’s life: the Sonata for cello and piano of 1915, the Sonata for flute, viola and harp from the same year, and the Sonata for violin and piano of 1916-17, completed only a year before the composer’s death in 1918.

The "Suite Italienne" for violin and piano was adapted by Stravinsky from a ballet he had written for the great impresario Serge Diaghilev. The ballet, "Pulcinella," was the last of a series of works Stravinsky wrote for Diaghilev. These ballets, considered some of Stravinsky’s greatest and most influential works, included "The Firebird," "Petrushka" and "The Rite of Spring," written between 1910 and 1913.

In a dramatic change of direction from the exotic Russian subjects of the earlier ballets, Diaghilev suggested in 1919 that Stravinsky adapt a group of keyboard pieces by (or attributed to) the Baroque composer Pergolesi for a ballet with a commedia dell’arte theme. Stravinsky, who had already adopted a spare, neo-classical style, found the Pergolesi pieces very compatible. The combination of Pergolesi’s regular rhythms and simple harmonies with Stravinsky’s more astringent style created an impression of cheerful modernism touched by nostalgia. The same quality is even more evident in the setting for violin and piano, with its chamber music setting.

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. 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 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. 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.

Nosikova, who joined the UI faculty in 1998, has performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States Europe and South America. She gave her New York debut performance in 1996 in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.

Last year, in addition to international appearances in France, Brazil and Argentina, she performed as a guest artist at several American universities, including the universities of Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The current season has featured a return to Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York, a solo recital on the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series in Chicago, and a recital tour of the United Kingdom. Recently she recorded the first solo CD of Franz Liszt’s "Years of Pilgrimage."

She has been a prize winner in numerous piano competitions, including the Frinna Awerbach International Piano Competition in New York, the Alabama International Piano Competition, and the Ibla International Piano Competition in Italy, to which she has returned as a jury member. She has received two major grants from the Arts and Humanities Initiative and the Central Investment Fund for Research Enhancement at the UI.

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

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