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Release: Nov. 12, 1999

Symphony, chouses, soloists to present 'Beethoven's Ninth' Dec. 1

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Symphony, combined choruses and guest soloists under the direction of William LaRue Jones, will present one of the icons of Western culture, the Ninth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven, in a free concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1 in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.

Four guests soloists will join Jones, the orchestra and singers from the UI School of Music for the performance: soprano Amy Cofield, mezzo-soprano Kathryn Proctor-Duax, tenor Lee Henning and bass-baritone Mark S. Doss.

Four choruses from the UI School of Music will combine to provide choral forces for the performance: Kantorei, directed by Timothy Stalter; Camerata Singers, directed by Richard Bloesch; University Choir, directed by Gregory Milliron; and the Women's Chorale, directed by Rebecca Petra Naomi Seeman. Stalter, who is director of choral activities for the UI School of Music, has prepared the combined choirs for the performance.

The concert is part of the regular fall season of the University Symphony, which traditionally ends each semester’s series of free performances with a choral/orchestral concert. For the final performance of the current semester -- which is, of course, also the final performance of the century and the millennium -- Jones wanted to present a piece that seemed appropriate to mark a significant date in people’s lives.

"No singular work in music history is as thought provoking or uplifting as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony," Jones said. "Our world today, as in Beethoven's time, continues to witness numerous examples of man’s intolerance and inhumanity, even though we have made enormous political, social, scientific and cultural advancements. It is my desire that the final University Symphony concert of this millennium reflect the hope and potential in all peoples to live in peaceful respect for one another."

Beethoven composed his ninth and final symphony in 1823-24. The first performance, with many of the leading musicians of Vienna participating, took place in one of the city’s major theaters on May 7, 1824.

From the very first, the symphony has occupied a special place in the classical repertoire. In purely musical terms, it was unlike anything anyone had ever heard in 1824. It was longer, at nearly 90 minutes, than any symphony that had been written. Each movement seemed to reach expressive extremes that broke the accepted bounds of musical style. And the inclusion of a chorus with the orchestra in the final movement was unprecedented in a symphony. Thus the symphony simultaneously astonished and uplifted its first audiences.

The use of chorus, the choice of a well known and highly idealistic text -- Schiller’s "Ode to Joy" -- and the exaltation of the closing strains of music seemed to mark the Ninth Symphony as more than an ordinary piece of music. It almost seemed to be a philosophical statement by the composer and a personal call for the universal brotherhood of peoples.

The circumstances of the first performance have further contributed to the legend surrounding the Ninth Symphony. Beethoven, by then completely deaf, tried to help lead the performance, but he was understandably unable to stay with the performers. And at the end, when the crowd erupted in approval, he had to be led to the edge of the stage by the teary-eyed alto soloist, because he could not hear the cheers and applause.

For the all of these reasons, the Ninth Symphony has long been considered a piece of extraordinary power and significance. It has often been selected for landmark events, most famously in recent years when Leonard Bernstein led a performance at the Berlin Wall after it was torn down 10 years ago -- substituting the word "Freiheit" (freedom) for the word "Freude" (joy), transforming the text to an "Ode to Freedom."

Cofield has performed both opera and oratorio in Europe and the United States. She has performed major operatic roles including Constanze in "The Abduction from the Seraglio," Violetta in "LaTraviata," Gilda in "Rigoletto" and Musetta in "La Boheme," with performances in France, Switzerland, Portugal and Spain. She has been a soloist with the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Philharmonic, Evansville (Ind.) Philharmonic, the South Bend (Ind.) Symphony and the Southern Nevada Choral Arts Society, among other organizations. She recently gave her English debut performances as soprano soloist in Haydn’s "Creation" with the International Cathedral Music Festival in London and Oxford.

A professor of music and coordinator of the voice division at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, Proctor Duax received a doctorate from the UI, where she studied with Herald Stark. She has performed with the Milwaukee Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Florentine Opera of Milwaukee. She is a frequent recitalist in the Midwest and has performed several times on Wisconsin Public Radio.

As a frequent guest soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony, Henning has been a soloist for Beethoven’s Miss in C, "Missa Solemnis" and Ninth Symphony, J.S. Bach’s "Magnificat," Honegger’s "King David," Liszt’s "Faust" Symphony and Haydn’s "Lord Nelson" Mass, among other works. He has also performed the Ninth Symphony and the Verdi "Requiem" with the Atlanta Symphony, and other works with the San Antonio Symphony and the Choral Arts Society of Washington, D.C. He recently performed in Japan as a soloist for Handel’s "Messiah" and Mendelssohn’s "St. Paul, and he will return to Tokyo to perform Verdi’s "Requiem."

Doss has performed with leading opera and concert organizations in the United States and around the world. These include the Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, Canadian Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, San Diego Opera and Cleveland Opera in North America; Theatre de la Monaie of Brussels, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Opera Bussetto in Europe; and the Auckland and Victoria opera companies in Australia. His concert appearances includes solos in Haydn’s "Creation," Verdi’s "Requiem," Brahms’ "German Requiem,’ Mendelssohn’s "Elijah" and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and performances with the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra.

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, he 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 honorary society.

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.).

For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiowacr on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/.