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University of Iowa News Release

April 19, 2006

UI Chamber Orchestra Presents Student Competition Winners May 7

The University of Iowa Chamber Orchestra and conductor William La Rue Jones will feature two student soloists, winners of the annual Concert/Aria Contest at the UI School of Music, on their final concert of the 2005-06 season, at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 7, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Soprano Colleen Jennings will sing two arias with the orchestra, "Ain't It a Pretty Night" from "Susannah" by American composer Carlisle Floyd and "The Song to the Moon" from Antonin Dvorak's opera "Rusalka."

Pianist Liang Fang Chang will play the Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 54, by Robert Schumann.

To open the concert, the orchestra will perform Dvorak's Serenade for Strings.

" 'One for the Romantic' would be an appropriate title to describe the Chamber Orchestra concert," Jones commented. "Both winners of the Concerto/Aria Competition selected music from the Romantic repertoire, and the concert will open with a fitting companion to the three solo works: Dvorak's E major Serenade.

"This melodic tour de force may inspire some after-concert whistling and features the string musicians of the orchestra. The richly melodic vein continues in Jennings's two lyrical arias, followed by the equally expressive A minor Piano Concerto of Robert Schumann."

Carlisle Floyd's first full-length opera, "Susannah" was written when the composer was 28. The plot is based on the Apocryphal biblical tale of Susanna and the Elders, associated with the prophet Daniel but not part of the Bible. Floyd relocated the drama to the American rural south of the 1950s and substituted a modern theocratic community for the biblical one.

"Susannah" is often described as a folk opera, because it integrates the flavors of traditional hymns, square dance music and Appalachian ballads into a through-composed score that employs a thoroughly 20th-century musical language. In her Act One aria, "Ain't it a pretty night?", Susannah reveals emotional fervor and a yearning to travel, to learn and to grow.

Dvorak's most popular opera, "Rusalka" is based on the legend of a water spirit who falls in love with a human -- a story better known to Americans through Hans Christian Andersen's tale of "The Little Mermaid" and the Disney movie it inspired.

In the opera Rusalka, a water nymph, confides to the water goblin that she has fallen in love with a handsome prince who often comes to the lake to bathe. The water goblin reluctantly advises her to seek the help of the witch, Jezibaba. While she gathers the courage to summon Jezibaba, Rusalka singe her most famous aria, "The Song to the Moon," in which she entreats the moon to convey her yearning to the prince.

After a year devoted almost entirely to writing songs, Robert Schumann began to explore orchestral composition in 1841. He completing the Symphony No. 1 early in the spring, and by May he had finished a "Concert Phantasie" in A minor for piano and orchestra. This lay dormant until the summer of 1845,when Schumann revised the "Phantasie" and added a slow movement and rondo to make a traditional three-movement concerto.

The premiere of the concerto was given by the composer's wife, Clara Schumann, on New Year's day 1846. Although it is not a virtuoso showpiece, as many 19th-century concertos are, Schumann's piano concerto has always been popular with performers. More than 20 years after it was written, in 1868, it inspired another composer, the 25-year-old Norwegian Edvard Grieg, who heard Clara play the concerto and later modeled his own Piano Concerto in A minor on Schumann's work.

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 a wide array of professional, festival, collegiate and student ensembles throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia, ranging from the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minneapolis Pops to the Penang (Malaysia) Symphony, the Antofagasta (Chili) Symphony and the Symphony Orchestra of Lucerne (Switzerland). Jones has conducted more than 70 all-state orchestras with additional festival/clinics in most of the 50 states and Canadian provinces.

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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