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Release: Nov. 1, 2002


Pianist Ksenia Nosikova from the University of Iowa School of Music will pair two of the icons of 19th-cetury Romanticism -- composers Johannes Brahms and Franz Liszt -- on a free faculty recital at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

By Brahms, Nosikova will play the “Variations and Fugue on a theme of Handel,” op 24, considered one of the composer’s .greatest keyboard works. And she will play several works by Liszt, a composer that she has frequently programmed in her solo recitals: the “Polonaise melancolique” in C minor; selections from the massive collection “Annees de Pelerinage” (Years of Pilgrimage); and the Polonaise No. 2 in E Major.

Brahms completed the “Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel” in September 1861. It was published without dedication, but was intended as a birthday gift for Clara Schumann -- the wife of composer Robert Schumann and a supporter of Brahms’ music. The manuscript is labeled “Variations for a beloved friend.”

The theme is taken from a set of pieces for keyboard the Handel wrote in 1733. Handel had written five conventional variations on the theme, which is very simple and direct and therefore ideal for the variations treatment. Brahms created a much larger construction on the theme, however, with no fewer than 25 variations of various kinds. It is in fact a demonstration of his mastery of both historical knowledge and compositional technique, with a series of variations in different Baroque styles -- a siciliano, a musette, a chromatic fantasy, several strict canons and other contrapuntal types. The grand finale is the large-scale fugue, which again shows off the composer’s mastery of contrapuntal techniques.

Franz Liszt was one of the greatest pianists, and most influential musicians, of the 19th century. Displaying both an astonishing technique and an extravagant personality, he created a sensation in his performances. One of the first musical super-stars, he was largely responsible for the ideal of the flamboyant virtuoso. He was also an important and original composer who wrote orchestral tone poems, songs and sacred choral music in addition to his many difficult virtuoso show pieces for piano.

Liszt worked on the “Annees de Pelerinage” almost constantly throughout his life. The first pieces were published as early as 1836, when the composer was 25 years old, and the final book was published in 1883, three years before Liszt’s death. Thus it is the only work that spans his lifetime, from his years of study in Paris, to his years as a traveling virtuoso, and his later years in Weimar and Rome. In its entirety, the “Annees de Pelerinage” is considered a musical self portrait that covers many aspects of Liszt’s personality.

The colossal cycle consists of three volumes. The first, “Switzerland,” records Liszt’s experiences while traveling in Switzerland in 1837. The second, “Italy,” records his impressions of travels through Italy with the glamorous Countess Marie d’Agoult. And the Third Book is a document of Liszt’s years of religious pilgrimage in Rome, late in his life, between the years 1867 and 1877. Rather than sets of sound paintings, it is a set of seven predominantly religious meditations.

Nosikova will play three pieces from the third set: “To the Cypresses of the Villa d’Este” I and II, and “The Fountains of the Villa d’Este.”

The two polonaises that will open and close the Liszt portion of the program were both completed in 1851 and were influenced by the death of Frederic Chopin, the Polish composer and contemporary of Liszt, who had died in 1849. The First Polonaise is subtitled “Melancolique” and is a gloomy and introspective work. The Second is the more popular of the two, undoubtedly due to its rhythmic liveliness and pianistic fireworks.

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 presented two solo recitals in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1996 and 2001 and has been a guest soloist with symphony and wind orchestras in Colorado, Louisiana and Iowa. In addition she has been invited to perform at international festivals in Munster, France; Rimini, Italy; and Rovin, Yugoslavia; as well as the Aspen and Sarasota Music Festivals in the United States.

A critic in the Boston Globe wrote, “Nosikova again displayed impressive musicianship,” and in Alsace, France, a review noted, “her performance is brilliant, full of grace and the most astonishing precision.” New York Concert Reviews noted, “in her Weill Hall recital, the space bloomed with fresh colors and supple pulse, an invigorating and pleasing effusion.”

In addition to international appearances in France, England, Brazil and Argentina, she has performed as a guest artist at several American universities, including the universities of Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. She received a return invitation to the Dame Myra Hess Series in Chicago and concert series in England and Moscow for the 2002-03 season

The Italy volume of her three- CD set of the complete “Years of Pilgrimage” by Franz Liszt was released by Centaur Records in March 2001. The year 2003 will see the release of the Switzerland volume the and recording of the third and final volume of the set. She has also recorded a disk of chamber music works for viola and piano by early 20th-century English composers Rebecca Clarke, Arthur Bliss and Frank Bridge with her UI colleague Christine Rutledge.

Nosikova has presented master classes in England and both North and South America. The winner of several international competitions, she regularly serves the Ibla Grand Prize International Competition in Italy as a jury member. She is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Women.

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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