April 16, 2008
Student competition winners will be soloists May 4
Winners of the Concerto/Aria Competition at the University of Iowa School of Music will appear as soloists with the UI Chamber Orchestra in its final concert of the 2007-08 season, at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 4, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.
The concert, under the direction of David Nelson, will be free and open to the public.
Winners of this year's contest are pianist Minji Kwon, who will play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major ("Emperor"), and violist Samuel Gold, who will play the Viola Concerto of Bela Bartok.
The orchestra will also perform the Intermezzo from "Cavalleria rusticana" by Pietro Mascagni.
An annual event, the Concerto/Aria competition is open to students in the UI School of Music. The winners are given the opportunity to appear as soloists with the UI Chamber Orchestra.
Initial rounds are held within the individual performance areas. This year, 10 students were selected to participate in the finals, held in November. The finalists performed for a panel of outside judges: Charles Wendt, emeritus professor of music; and Marcella Lee, a singer and music writer from Iowa City.
In English-speaking countries, Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto is called the "Emperor." The origins of the name are obscure, although there is a story, unauthenticated and unlikely, that at the first Vienna performance a French officer exclaimed at some point, "Viva l'Empereur!"
One of Beethoven's most popular works, the concerto was composed in 1809, at a time when the composer was a familiar public figure in Vienna. He was well known as a composer and a pianist, but this was also a time when deafness had begun to take its toll on both his daily personal life and his performing career. It was his last piano concerto, most likely because he gave up performing in public and had no more need for concertos.
Composition took place amidst the turmoil of the Napoleonic siege and occupation of Vienna. The first performance of the concerto was given in Leipzig on Nov. 28, 1811. Vienna got to hear the concerto on Feb. 12, 1812, when the soloist was Beethoven's student Carl Czerny. The Concerto No. 5 is one of many compositions that Beethoven dedicated to his patron, student and friend, Archduke Rudolph.
The Hungarian composer Bela Bartok came to the United States in 1940, one of many musical refugees of the war in Europe. He had no permanent job in this country, and both his health and his financial situation deteriorated. By 1945 he was hospitalized in New York, suffering from leukemia and struggling to finish his final works.
One of these was the Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, which had been commissioned by the great Scottish-American violist William Primrose. By early September 1945 Bartok had completed 14 pages, which included the solo part and sketches of the orchestral accompaniment. He wrote to Primrose, "only the score needs to be written, which means a purely mechanical work, so to speak."
Unfortunately, Bartok died Sept. 26 before he could complete the work. It was initially completed by Bartok's close friend, composer Tibor Serly, who also completed Bartok's final piano concerto. The Viola Concerto was later republished in a version prepared by the composer's son, Peter Bartok.
Nelson is currently professor of music education at the UI. He is the founding director of the UI Division of Performing Arts and former director of the School of Music. As a violinist and conductor, he performed with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, the Austin (Texas), Omaha, Quad-City and the Madison symphony Orchestras, and served as associate concertmaster of the Owensboro (Ky.) Symphony. For more information visit http://www.uiowa.edu/%7Emusic/bios/ADMINnelson.htm.
The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at www.uiowa.edu/~music/ .
For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to http://list.uiowa.edu/archives/acr-news.html, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.
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