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New director of University Symphony will conduct first UI concert Sept. 24

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- William LaRue Jones, the new director of the University of Iowa Symphony and successor to Iowa musical legend James Dixon, will step to the podium to conduct his first concert with the orchestra at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.

The performance, which will be free, will also feature clarinet soloist Maurita Murphy Mead. Four works will comprise the program: Leonard Bernstein's brilliant and witty Overture to "Candide"; "Memorial to Lidice," written by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu in memory of a village that was wiped out by the Nazis during World War II; Aaron Copland's virtuoso Clarinet Concerto, with Mead as soloist; and a late-Romantic orchestral favorite, Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2.

A UI music alumnus and the founding music director/administrator of the internationally recognized Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., Jones came to the UI this fall to direct the University Symphony for the 1997-98 academic year. He replaces Dixon, the director of the orchestra for more than 40 years, who retired at the end of the 1996-97 academic year.

Jones is a highly honored musician, having received the Twin Cities Mayors' Public Art Award, the American String Teachers Association Exceptional Leadership and Merit Award and the David W. Preuss Leadership Award. He has also been selected Musician of the Year by Sigma Alpha Iota, a music honorary society.

Jones has appeared as a guest conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra, the St., Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Sinfonie Orchester AML-Luzern (Switzerland) and other orchestras around the world. He has conducted all-state and festival orchestras in 46 states and five Canadian provinces. He has been conductor-in-residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts and the University of Miami (Fla.).

Most recently, he conducted a concert with the orchestra of the All-State Music Camp at the UI during the past summer.

Jones holds a Master of Fine Arts in music from the UI and a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" opened on Broadway on Dec. 1, 1956, and ran for only 73 performances before closing. It had extraordinary literary credentials -- based on Voltaire's classic, adapted by Lillian Hellman with lyrics by Dorothy Parker and Richard Wilbur, among others -- but audiences were never sure if they were seeing a musical comedy or an operetta, and many critics found its sophistication forced and pretentious. Nevertheless, frequent revivals and revisions have kept "Candide" before the public, and it has many fans in spite of its reputation as a problem show.

None of this has affected the popularity of the overture, however. Filled with brilliant orchestral effects, Bernstein's memorable melodies and jazzy rhythms, it is a perennially popular concert opener for symphony and pops orchestras alike.

Before World War II, the Bohemian village of Lidice had a population of about 450. It was "liquidated" by German troops on June 10, 1942, in reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the representative of the Nazi government in Prague. All of the men were shot, the women sent to concentration camps, and the children dispersed among German institutions.

The Bohemian nationalist composer Bohuslav Martinu had fled war-time Europe with great difficulty and was living in the United States when he heard of the events at Lidice. He composed his "Memorial to Lidice" in 1943, using a deliberately dissonant and forceful style to express the horror and brutality of the Nazi atrocities.

Although he spent most of his life in exile, Martinu remained deeply connected to his homeland. He lived in Paris in the 1920s and '30s, and in the United States during the 1940s. He traveled back and forth between the United States and Europe for several years before his death in 1959, although he was never able to return to Czechoslovakia. His music drew on his heritage, however, often using Czech folk legends, literature and songs for its subject matter or directly incorporating folk songs. Even his instrumental works are strongly influenced by the melodies and rhythms of Czech folk music.

Aaron Copland is widely regarded as the most "American" of composers. Through such deliberately nationalist works as the ballets "Appalachian Spring," "Rodeo" and "Billy the Kid," and such patriotic works as the World-War-II vintage "Fanfare for the Common Man" and the evocative "Lincoln Portrait," he achieved wide popularity with American concert audiences.

But that is only one side of a complex composer, who also wrote abstract instrumental works that have no national agenda. Among these is the Clarinet Concerto, composed in 1948 for the great jazz player Benny Goodman.

An eclectic musician, Goodman had strong fundamental training on the clarinet and wide ranging interests. One of the first "cross-over " artists, he played Mozart with the Budapest Quartet and the Boston Symphony, and he commissioned concertos from several leading composers, including Copland and Paul Hindemith. Copland certainly treated Goodman as a soloist of the highest level: The concerto is one of the most challenging show-pieces in the clarinet repertoire, requiring virtuoso technique and great musical sensitivity.

Sergei Rachmaninoff was one of the great piano virtuosos of the 20th century. In a few works that achieved extreme popularity -- the Second Piano Concerto, recently popularized again by the hit film "Shine"; the "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini"; and the Prelude in C-sharp minor, among others -- he has found a permanent place in the classical music repertory.

Among these popular works is the Second Symphony. Completed in 1908 when the composer was 35, it represented a significant milestone in the composer's career. His First Symphony had been completed in 1895, but the premiere in 1896 was badly played. The performance was a disaster and Rachmaninoff was devastated. He was unable to compose for several years, and only slowly regained his confidence. The success of the Second Piano Concerto in 1900 and the completion of the Second Symphony were important steps in his return to an active musical life.

Composed on an extremely large scale, the symphony is laid out in the traditional four-movement plan of the Romantic period: an opening Allegro with a slow introduction, a rapid dance movement, a lush slow movement that has been one of Rachmaninoff's most popular creations, and a climactic finale. The opening measures contain concise musical ideas that serve to unify the entire work. This structural integrity has impressed critics with Rachmaninoff's compositional mastery, while the broad, Romantic themes and the opulent orchestral sound have endeared the Second Symphony to the public.

Mead is in her 15th year teaching clarinet on the faculty of the UI School of Music, where she is also associate director for undergraduate studies. Her many solo invitations have included International Clarinet Association conferences, the Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium, the Southeastern Clarinet Workshop and the conference of the College Band Directors National Association. She has been principal clarinet of several Midwestern orchestras, including the Cedar Rapids Symphony.

As a chamber musician she has appeared with the Cleveland Quartet and other ensembles. Her recent "On The Fence" performances, combining jazz, jazz-influenced compositions and classical works on a single program, was a featured recital at the Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium, and it was followed by "Over the Fence," an entire jazz program. She is secretary of the International Clarinet Association and has appeared by invitation as featured soloist at the 1997 ICA convention. She recently recorded a CD of Brazilian choros with pianist Rafael Dos Santos, a UI alumnus.

As recipient of the UI Collegiate Teaching Award, Mead was the invited speaker at the UI College of Liberal Arts commencement in 1990. Her students have won first prize in competitions sponsored by the International Clarinet Association and ClarFest. She holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music, where she received the Performer's Certificate, and from Michigan State University.

9/12/97