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Release: Nov. 30, 2001

UI Orchestra, Faculty Will Perform Dec. 9

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Chamber Orchestra and faculty from the School of Music will perform Camille Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals" and the rarely-staged original version of Igor Stravinsky's "Soldier's Tale" in a free concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Forming the first half of the program, "Carnival of the Animals" will feature the UI Chamber Orchestra under the direction of William La Rue Jones with pianists Carole Thomas and Rosemary Chancler.

The "Soldier's Tale" will be presented in a collaborative production by the three units of the UI Division of Performing Arts: the School of Music, the department of theatre arts and the department of dance. A seven-player ensemble of faculty from the School of Music will be conducted by Jones, while personnel from theatres and dance will perform a staged version of the tale, under the direction of Meredith Alexander from the faculty of the department of theatre arts.

Featured performers in the production of "The Soldier's Tale" will be theatre faculty members Eric Forsythe as the narrator, Ralph Hall as the soldier, and Judy Leigh-Johnson as the devil. From music, Leopold La Fosse will play the virtuoso solo violin part, with an ensemble of Paul Ousley, bass; Maurita Murphy Mead, clarinet; Benjamin Coelho, bassoon; David Greenhoe, trumpet; David Gier, trombone; and Daniel Moore, percussion. The dancer will be Rachelle Palnick Tsachor.

Saint-Saens had a long and extremely productive life. Born in Paris in 1835, he lived until 1921. In his 86 years he wrote 13 operas, three symphonies, numerous orchestral tone poems, five piano concertos, three violin concertos, two cello concertos, chamber music, songs and choral works. In addition to all this compositional activity, he taught composition and continued to perform as both a pianist and organist.

According to some of Saint-Saens' students, the composer would lighten the classroom atmosphere by improvising parodies of other composers. "Carnival of the Animals" is the product of his jotting down some of these improvisations at the prodding of his pupils. Subtitled "Grand Zoological Fantasy," the score represents an attempt to make fun of stereotyped musical characters through depictions of different animals.

Appropriately, the work was first performed as a musical masquerade at a Parisian Mardi Gras concert in 1886, but received few other performances during the composer's lifetime. Fearing that it might eclipse his more serious works, Saint-Saens prohibited publication of the work until after his death. Along with his piano concertos, "The Carnival of the Animals" has since become a mainstay of the piano repertoire.

When Stravinsky wrote "A Soldier's Tale" in 1918, World War I was at its height. With most of the major cultural institutions in Europe closed down, the composer had the idea of writing a piece that could be played by a small group in modest circumstances. He collaborated with Swiss author C.F. Ramuz on a tale about a soldier who encounters the devil -- in Stravinsky's piece as in many legends, playing a fiendish fiddle -- and undergoes a struggle between good and evil.

The original piece calls for three actors, a female dancer and a 7-piece instrumental ensemble. In this form the first performance was given in Lausanne, Switzerland, Sept. 28, 1918, under the direction of the great Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet. Performances of this version of the piece are rare today, and the music is most often heard as a suite -- essentially the main musical numbers separated from the narrative and the dancing.

"The Soldier's Tale" was one of several pieces composed during or immediately after World War I that are considered the beginning of the neo-classical style in music. Some, like "The Soldier's Tale," Stravinsky's "Octet" and Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire," used smaller instrumental groups that led to a generally lighter texture than most music of the pre-war late Romantic style. Others, including Stravinsky's ballet "Pulcinella" -- based on 18th-century piano pieces -- and Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony, were more overtly inspired by the music of the Classic era in music. Taken together, these pieces represented a move away from the overblown, intensely emotional style of the late Romantic period and led to a major stream of 20th-century music.

The Division of Performing Arts is part of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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