CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Feb. 15, 2002
UI Chamber Orchestra Will Feature Faculty Soloists Feb. 24
The University of Iowa Chamber Orchestra will showcase
three School of Music faculty soloists on their next concert, at 3 p.m. Sunday,
Feb. 24 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.
The concert, under the direction of William LaRue
Jones, will be free and open to the public.
The program will comprise only two works: "Old American
Songs" by Aaron Copland, with baritone Stephen Swanson as soloist; and Benjamin
Britten's Double Concerto for violin and viola, with violinist Timothy Shiu
and violist Christine Rutledge.
The two composers on this program had very different
and personal styles that have little in common. Nevertheless, Copland and
Britten respected one another's work. They met in England in 1938, and Copland
played an indirect role in luring Britten to the United States just before
World War II. The two remained friends throughout Britten's wartime stay in
the United States and after.
The Old American Songs represent a distinct effort
on Copland's part to recreate an American musical heritage, and they are his
most important contribution to the repertoire for solo voice. Most of the
songs originated in pre-Civil War America and run the gamut of traditions,
including banjo melodies, campaign satires, spirituals, children's lullabies,
hymns, revivalist songs and folk ballads, all set with simple but expressive
accompaniments. Copland has said he chose these particular tunes because they
are all direct, vigorous, lacking chromatic elaboration, and harmonized primarily
in a major mode.
After Copland completed the first set of "Old American
Songs" in the winter of 1950, he sang some of the pieces for Britten and tenor
Peter Pears. Britten and Pears were so delighted that they offered to premiere
the completed songs for the Aldeburgh Festival that summer. The first set
was thus first performed in June 1950 with Britten on piano and Pears singing.
The orchestration that Copland added in 1954-55 serves
to enrich the sound and rhythmic elements of each piece, which also heightens
the scenic descriptions. For example, the sunny river landscape strikes the
listener from the opening chord of "The Boatmen's Dance," as does the mock
banjo strumming in "The Dodger."
Britten was still a composition student at the Royal
College of Music in 1932, when he wrote the Double Concerto. Set in a conventional
three-movement form, the concerto reflects many of the contending influences
of the day: Second Viennese School serialism, English nationalism, neo-Classicism,
French Impressionism and jazz. The lively dance rhythms of the third movement,
for example, are highly uncharacteristic of Britten's later compositional
style. Yet they achieve a powerful backdrop in which to explore the interplay
between solo instruments.
Britten was extraordinarily prolific as a teenage
composer, and many of his early works were set aside as he forged ahead with
his next project. The Double Concerto was nearly complete in Britten's own
manuscript, except for a few details of scoring, but 65 years elapsed before
the concerto was premiered at the 50th Aldeburgh Festival in 1997 -- more
than 20 years after Britten's death -- in a version completed by Colin Matthews.
Swanson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music
in 1994. For nearly 20 years before that date he had an active operatic career
in Europe, with 91 roles in opera, operetta and musicals. He has sung on German,
Austrian and Dutch radio broadcasts and has been a featured soloist in European.
Swanson has also had an extensive career as a concert singer, appearing as
featured soloist with many U.S. orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony
under Sir Georg Solti, Raphael Fruehbeck de Burgos and Margaret Hillis.
Since coming to Iowa City, he has presented solo recitals,
appeared in and directed UI Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater productions, and
performed with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.
A founding member of the Maia Quartet, Shiu joined
the UI faculty with the other members of the quartet in 1998. He has concertized
extensively throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia, and
has collaborated with violinist Peter Zazovsky of the Muir Quartet, violist
Michael Tree of the Guarneri Quartet, the late flutist Samuel Baron and other
renowned chamber musicians. He has been a member of the Canton (Ohio) Symphony
Orchestra and the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra in Louisiana, where he held
the position of Principal Second Violin.
Rutledge joined the UI faculty in 1998. She had previously
been a faculty member at Notre Dame University, where she also played with
the Notre Dame String Trio. She is a graduate of the UI School of Music, where
she studied with William Preucil.
She has appeared as soloist, chamber musician and
orchestral player throughout the United States and abroad. Her performances
and recordings with the Notre Dame String Trio have earned glowing reviews
from The Strad, Fanfare and other music publications. Her solo performances
have included those before her professional peers at the 23rd International
Viola Congress in Bloomington, Ind., the 24th Congress in Germany, and the
2Xth International Viola Congress in Sweden. She has performed the standard
viola repertoire, her own transcriptions of Baroque works, several lesser
known works for viola, and new works that were written specifically for her.
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 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
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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