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Release: Sept. 28, 2001

Pianist Rene Lecuona will play Chopin, Prokofiev and Schumann Oct. 8

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Pianist Rene Lecuona will traverse musical styles from the Classical and the Romantic to the 20th century on a University of Iowa faculty recital, at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus. Her performance will be free and open to the public.

Lecuona will play three pieces: Serge Prokofiev's Sonata No. 2 in D minor, op. 14; the Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor, op. 39 of Frederic Chopin; and, filling the second half of the program, Robert Schumann's Sonata No. 1 in F-sharp minor, op. 11.

As a musical title, the Italian word "scherzo" has had several different connotations. From its original meaning of a joke, it was used to refer to a lightweight, witty piece. Beethoven used it in a highly individual way, for movements of rough and energetic character that appeared in his symphonies and sonatas in place of the stately minuet. Chopin transformed the scherzo yet again into independent character pieces that are more like tragic musical poems than anything witty.

Prokofiev's nine piano sonatas are considered the composer's finest keyboard writing, and among the most significant piano works of the 20th century. They were composed over a span of more than 40 years -- 1907-53 -- representing most of his compositional career. The Sonata No. 2, which was developed from a one-movement sonatina and a scherzo written for a composition class, was premiered in 1914, when Prokofiev was 23. It is characteristic of his early style, with striking, angular melodies, strong rhythms and biting harmonies.

Schumann's creativity often came in bursts of activity in specific areas of composition that lasted for a year or more. In some cases, these interests seem to have been stimulated by events in his personal life: In 1840, the year after his marriage, he wrote more than 150 songs. In 1841 he wrote orchestral works and the following year, while his wife was away on a concert tour, he wrote mostly chamber music.

His three piano sonatas were written in a similar burst, around 1835-36. Although they are not as well known as "Carnaval," "Papillons" and his other collections of shorter character pieces, Schumann's sonatas have stayed securely in the repertoire as important examples of Romantic piano writing. The Second Sonata, often considered the best of the three, includes a beautifully lyrical slow movement and a sparkling scherzo.

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.

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

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