The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

April 8, 2004

Concert Features Concerto/Aria Competition Winner April 25

Violinist Alla Cross, a graduate student in the University of Iowa School of Music and the winner of the 2003-04 All University Concerto/Aria Competition, will be featured in a concert by the University Chamber Orchestra at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 25, in Clapp Recital Hall.

Cross will play the Tchaikovksy Violin Concerto with the orchestra and conductor Enaldo Oliveira. To open the concert, John Winzenburg will lead the orchestra in Mendlelssohn's Overture to "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Oliveira and Winzenberg are also graduate students in the School of Music.

The concert will be free and open to the public.

The 2003-04 All-University Concerto/Aria Competition was held in November 2003. The competition was open to all students enrolled in a performance studio in the School of Music, with the recommendation of the studio faculty. Following an initial round of competition, two entrants were selected from each of five performance areas: woodwinds, brass/percussion, strings, keyboard and voice.

These 10 finalists played for a panel of retired UI music faculty, who selected Cross as the overall winner. Pianist Soyun Ana Ban and tenor Dennis Willhoit were selected as alternates.

Cross is in the third year of her doctoral program in violin performance and pedagogy at the UI, having studied with the late Leopold LaFosse and with Annette Barbara Vogel. She is currently a student of Peter Zazovsky, a visiting professor from Boston University.

She received both her bachelor's and master's degrees in Russia before coming to the United States in 1999. Cross played professionally in symphony and chamber orchestras for several years in Russia and is currently a member of the Cedar Rapids Symphony. In addition to performing with ensembles, Cross has many years of experience coaching chamber groups and teaching violin at the graduate level.

Tchaikovsky wrote the Violin Concerto in March and April 1878, in Clarens, Switzerland, where he had gone to recover from the emotional trauma of his disastrous marriage eight months before. While he was there Yosif Kotek, a young violinist and composition student of Tchaikovsky, spent time with the composer playing through music for violin and piano.

With Kotek's encouragement and advice, Tchaikovsky began work on a concerto for violin and orchestra, completing the sketch in a few weeks and the full score by the end of April. He sent the completed score with a dedication to Leopold Auer, a Hungarian-born violinist who was one of the leading virtuosos in Europe. Auer, however, considered the concerto unplayable.

In the meantime the concerto was published, and in 1888 Tchaikovsky heard that another violinist, Adolf Brodsky, was planning a performance. Brodsky gave the premiere on Dec. 4 with the Vienna Philharmonic. The conservative Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick greeted the performance with a famously vituperative review, which discouraged neither Brodsky, who continued to perform the concerto throughout Europe, nor audiences, who have hailed the concerto from the first performance.

Shakespeare was extremely popular across Germany in the early years of the 19th century. "A Midsummer Night's Dream," with its elements of magic and fantasy, appealed especially to the Romantic imagination. When he was 17, Mendelssohn read an early German translation of the play and was enchanted by the fairy realm. "Today or tomorrow I shall begin to dream the midsummer night's dream," he wrote to his sister in July 1826. He wrote the overture during the summer, portraying not only the fairies but also the human characters of the play in music that has engaged the imagination of listeners ever since its premiere in 1827.

Many years later, the King of Prussia commissioned incidental music for a performance of Shakespeare's play. Mendelssohn picked up the overture, which was then played before the performance, adding six additional numbers, including the well known Nocturne and Wedding March, which were performed with the play at the Prussian court in Potsdam in October 1843.

Oliveira has a bachelor's degree in violin performance from Santa Marcelina College in Sao Paulo, Brazil and a master's degree from Sao Paulo University. He served as string coordinator at Tom Jobim Music University and as pedagogical coordinator of the Guri Project for the Cultural State Secretary of Sao Paulo. He is currently in his second year of the doctoral program in orchestral conducting at the UI, where he studies with William LaRue Jones. He has recently been appointed as the music director and conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra at the Greater Cedar Rapids Youth Orchestras.

Winzenburg is in his third year of the doctoral program in orchestral conducting at the UI. He received a master's degree in choral conducting from the University of Minnesota in 1999. He conducted both choirs and community/high school orchestras in the Twin Cities area before moving to Iowa City. Winzenburg also holds a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies from Hamline University and spent eight years in China, Japan and Taiwan as a language student, journalist and jazz/rock musician. Since 2001 he has attended conducting workshops both in Iowa City and the People's Republic of China.

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

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,

PHOTOS are available at