CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: February 26, 1999
University Symphony will play Beethoven and Stravinsky scores March
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Symphony will perform two
works that are landmarks of the 19th and 20th centuries -- Beethoven's
Fifth Symphony and Stravinsky's ballet "The Rite of Spring" --
in a concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 10 in Hancher Auditorium on the
The concert, under the direction of William LaRue Jones, will be free
and open to the public.
Both pieces on the program were written near the beginning of their
respective centuries -- Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in 1808 and Stravinsky's
"Rite of Spring" in 1913. Considered among the greatest and most
influential musical works of their times, both compositions helped shape
the course of musical developments that followed them.
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is one of the most familiar and immediately
recognizable pieces of Classical music ever written. The four-note theme
(da-da-da-DUM), stated at the beginning and repeated through many variations
and stages of development throughout the symphony's four movements, has
stood for "fate knocking at the door," and, due to its similarity
to the Morse-code pattern for "V," has symbolized allied victory
in World War II.
The symphony has been played thousands of times all over the world,
but audiences seemingly never tire of music that appears to follow a great
dramatic course, from an initial struggle with fate to triumphant victory
in the final movement.
Beethoven wrote the Fifth Symphony in 1807-08, at a time when he was
a familiar public figure in Vienna, well known as a composer and a pianist.
This was also a time when deafness had begun to take its toll on both his
daily personal life and his performing career, a fact that has led many
to identify the struggle portrayed in the symphony with Beethoven's own
personal struggle with his tragic fate.
The symphony received its first performance at a concert in Vienna on
Dec. 22, 1808. Lasting more than four hours, the event was as much a musical
marathon as a concert: The program included the first performances of the
Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Fourth Piano Concerto, portions of the
Mass in C, several smaller pieces and, to wrap it all up for anyone left
in the theater, the Choral Fantasy.
The highly dramatic nature of the music; the unifying effect of the
opening rhythm, which returns in the later movements; the sense of struggle
leading to a culminating finale -- in all of these ways Beethoven's Fifth
was a new kind of symphony. More than entertainment, it was a powerful
dramatic work, and it became a model that later composers of symphonies,
from Brahms and Dvorak to Mahler and Shostakovich, had to contend with.
Stravinsky's music for the ballet "The Rite of Spring" is,
in its way, as famous as Beethoven's symphony, but for far different reasons.
Utterly unlike anything that had ever been heard before, its first performance,
given in Paris in 1913, sparked a riot in the audience that drowned out
the music and became one of the great artistic scandals of the 20th century.
The choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky stood backstage screaming out the beats
for the dancers, who could not hear the orchestra, and many stories have
been told of audience members who screamed, shouted or pounded on each
other -- either carried away with excitement or infuriated by the music
-- during the performance.
Following the tumultuous premiere, "The Rite of Spring" was
performed in concert by orchestras throughout Europe and the United States,
generating controversy wherever it went. But Stravinsky's complex dissonances,
pounding rhythms and insistent motivic patterns also generated excitement
and enthusiasm, and the ballet's scenario of primitive ritual soon started
a craze for so-called "primitivist" pieces. One of the most influential
pieces of the 20th century, "The Rite of Spring" spawned many
imitators but it has never been excelled by any orchestral music for sheer
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. He replaced James Dixon, the director of the orchestra for more
than 40 years, who retired at the end of the 1996-97 academic year. 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 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
Jones is conductor of the Bloomington (Minn.) Symphony and 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.).
Jones holds a Master of Fine Arts in music from the UI and a doctorate
from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.