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Release: Feb. 1, 2002

University of Iowa Symphony will play program of popular classics Feb. 13

The University of Iowa Symphony will play a program of popular orchestral classics with conductor William LaRue Jones at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13 in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus. The concert will be free and open to the public.

The program will feature three pieces that are popular staples of the repertoire of most major orchestras: Tchaikovsky's "Slavonic March" (also known by its French title, "Marche Slave"), op. 31; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio espagnol" (Spanish caprice); and Ottorino Respighi's orchestral showpiece, "Pines of Rome."

Not only are all three works extremely popular with audiences, they are all considered virtuoso orchestral scores that give conductors and players a chance to show their skills.

Before the Feb. 13 performance at the UI, Jones and the University Symphony will perform the same program on tour in Kansas on Feb. 11 and 12.

The "Slavonic March" was written in 1876, in response to a request for music to be performed at a charity concert for soldiers wounded in the Serbo-Turkish War -- soon to become the Russo-Turkish War. Tchaikovsky wrote a rousing march for the occasion, using several Serbian and South Slavonic themes along with the new Russian national anthem that had been written by Alexis Feodorovich Lvov -- a theme he used again, and more famously, in the "1812 Overture."

The Serbian folk-tune that provides the main subject is rather lugubrious, but Tchaikovsky soon works it up into a blood-stirring march. The work ends in a blaze of patriotic fervor with the Russian anthem ingeniously combined with fragments of the other themes.

"Capriccio espagnol" ranks with "Scheherazade" as Rimsky-Korsakov's most popular works, and one of the most popular orchestral pieces ever written. It was composed in 1887 and was first intended for solo violin and orchestra, but the Spanish dance themes the composer used suggested to him a more brilliant and varied orchestral treatment.

The composer wrote, "The 'Capriccio' is a brilliant composition for the orchestra. The change of timbres, the felicitous choice of melodic designs and figuration patterns, exactly suiting each kind of instrument, brief virtuoso cadenzas for solo instruments, the rhythm of the percussion instruments, and so on, constitute here the very essence of the composition and not merely its garb of orchestration.

"The Spanish themes, of dance character, furnished me with rich material for putting in use multiform orchestral effects. All in all, the "Capriccio' is undoubtedly a purely external piece, but vividly brilliant for all that."

The Capriccio is in five linked sections each having a Spanish character: an "Alborado," a morning serenade that seems determined to waken everybody as soon as it starts on its tempestuous course; a set of variations on a languid "Seguidilla," beginning with a theme on the horns over a rocking accompaniment; a reprise of the "Alborado" in a new key; "Scene and Gypsy Song," a series of five cadenzas interspersed with a gypsy theme in the orchestra; and an exhilarating finale, introduced by the trombones, in the style of an "Asturian Fandango."

"The Pines of Rome" was written in 1924 by the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi, who is known today mostly for his virtuoso orchestral tone poems. His music is characteristically exciting, with brilliant orchestral effects, strong emotional contrasts and powerful climaxes.

"The Pines of Rome," like its companion piece "The Fountains of Rome," is in four sections, each a musical impression of a specific time of day and location in Rome: "The Pines of the Villa Borghese," "The Pines near a Catacomb," "The Pines of the Janiculum" and "The Pines of the Appian Way." In both scores, musical depiction of the location and its mood is combined with a nostalgic evocation of Rome's history. Thus, "The Pines of the Appian Way," the culminating section of the score, is a relentless march, describing the passing of a Roman legion along the road way.

A UI music alumnus, Jones joined the faculty of the School of Music in 1997 as director of the University Symphony and director of orchestral studies. Prior to joining the UI faculty, Jones was the founding music director/administrator of the internationally recognized Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.

Jones is a highly honored musician, having received the Twin Cities Mayors' Public Art Award, the American String Teachers Association Exceptional Leadership and Merit Award and the David W. Preuss Leadership Award. He has also been selected Musician of the Year by Sigma Alpha Iota , a music honorary society.

Jones has appeared as a guest conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Sinfonie Orchester AML-Luzern (Switzerland) and other orchestras around the world. He has conducted all-state and festival orchestras in 46 states and five Canadian provinces. He has been conductor-in-residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts and the University of Miami (Fla.).

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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