CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
University of Iowa Orchestra will give summer concert July 2
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- David Nelson will conduct the University of Iowa
Symphony in a concert featuring three popular opera overtures and the First
Symphony of Beethoven at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 2, in Clapp Recital Hall
on the UI campus.
The concert will be free and open to the public.
Overtures taken from 19th-century operas have become popular concert
pieces. Designed to capture an audience's attention, or to preview the
coming action, or simply to establish a mood for the opening scene, they
are often exciting, entertaining pieces that have become audience favorites
apart from the operas for which they were written.
All three overtures on the July 2 program -- one by Donizetti and two
by Rossini -- date from the first half of the 19th century. The Overture
to Donizetti's "Don Pasquale," first performed at the Italian
Theater in Paris in 1843, consists of a series of short, unrelated musical
ideas taken from the opera, arranged in a sequence of generally increasing
tempo and rhythmic excitement.
The Overture to "La gazza ladra" (The thieving magpie), composed
in 1817, is characteristic of Rossini's Italian opera overtures, full the
sparkling melodies and unstoppable rhythmic drive that made the composer
a sensation across Europe. In the typical Rossini overture a slow introduction
-- in this case a march-like passage dominated by the snare drum -- is
followed by a very fast section that features the so-called "Rossini
crescendo": a passage of repeated rhythmic figures that gradually
grows louder and louder, as more and more instruments join in and the momentum
becomes irresistible. This passage is usually heard twice, the second time
leading to a culminating section in even faster tempo.
The Overture to "William Tell" -- probably the most famous
opera overture ever written, with the instantly recognizable "Lone
Ranger" theme music -- belongs to a somewhat different tradition.
Rossini's last opera, "William Tell" was written in Paris in
1829. An example of what is today called French Grand Opera, its overture
was more extensive than most Italian opera overtures. It consists of a
series of descriptive sections that loosely reflect the dramatic progression
of the opera: a slow passage for five cellos representing dawn, a storm,
a pastoral scene, and the famous military music that concludes the overture
in a blaze of brilliance.
Beethoven composed his Symphony No. 1 in C major in 1800, eight years
after he had settled in Vienna -- then the musical capital of Europe --
but before most of the great works for which he is known today. It was
written very much in the style Beethoven inherited from the 18th-century
classical composers, with four movements in the traditional pattern of
fast movement, slow movement, minuet and finale.
The influence of Joseph Haydn is particularly evident. Beethoven had
studied with him in 1793, before Haydn set out for his second concert tour
to London. Haydn's influence is particularly evident in the finale, which
has the folk-like melodies, dance rhythms and light-hearted humor of the
finales of the symphonies Haydn wrote for his London concerts. Only the
minuet shows hints of Beethoven's own musical personality, in its fast
tempo and insistent rhythms.
Nelson has been director of the UI School of Music since 1991. He is
a music educator and conductor as well as a violinist with professional
orchestral and chamber music experience. Before coming to the UI, he was
on the faculty and directed the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He is the author of scholarly articles in music psychology, music cognition
and pedagogy. He holds degrees from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln
and the University of Texas at Austin.