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Release: April 28, 2000

Two cycles of songs to be performed by Joselson and Lecuona May 8

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Soprano Rachel Joselson and pianist Rene Lecuona will team up to perform cycles of songs by Robert Schumann and Samuel Barber for a free University of Iowa School of Music faculty recital at 8 p.m. Monday, May 8, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Joselson and Lecuona will perform Barber's "Hermit Songs," settings of 10 poems that were translated into English from anonymous medieval Irish texts; and Schumann's "Frauenliebe und -leben" (Women's lives and loves), a setting of a cycle of nine poems by the early 19th-century French-German poet Adelbert von Chamisso.

Although they are not well known to the general classical music lover, the "Hermit Songs" hold a special place in Joselson's affections. "When I was a senior in high school and just beginning to take singing seriously, right after auditioning and being accepted at the privileged level of 'performance major' at Florida State University for the following fall, I happened across a recording that changed my life," she wrote in the program notes for the May 8 recital.

"On one side was Barber's 'Knoxville: Summer of 1915,' performed by soprano Eleanor Steber, who commissioned the work; on the other side was none other than Samuel Barber at the piano and the young angelic voice of Leontyne Price singing the 'Hermit Songs.' Naive and unappreciative and unexposed in the areas of opera and classical music in general, I was inspired, enchanted, compelled to take this 'singing thing' all the way."

One of the most successful American composers of the 20th century, Barber had music performed by all the leading musicians of his generation. The Metropolitan Opera premiered two of his works, including "Anthony and Cleopatra," which opened the opera house in Lincoln Center in 1966, and his "Adagio for Strings" ranks as one of the most popular works written by an American.

Barber seems to have been attracted by the personal nature of the poems he selected for his "Hermit Songs." He noted that they were "written by monks and scholars, often on the margins of manuscripts they were copying or illuminating -- perhaps not always meant to be seen by their Father Superiors. They are small poems, thoughts or observations, some very short, and speak in straightforward, droll and often surprisingly modern terms of the simple life these men led, close to nature, to animals, and to God." Some of the English texts are literal translations, and others were especially made for Barber by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Chamisso's poetry belongs to the early 19th-century style known as "Biedermeier," which emphasized domestic subject matter in art and literature. Looking at the musical settings of Chamisso's "Franeunliebe" series from a modern perspective, Joselson says they are "clearly an example of men using musical language to construct images of women in their compositions."

"Conventional images permeate Chamisso's cycle," she explains. "Scenes of domestic life, blue eyes regularly brimming with tears, and the experience of heart-wrenching pain -- in short, an early 19th-century epitome of love and marriage."

The cycle covers the incidents in a woman's life from the first time she sees her beloved. The first three poems present the idea of mutual love between a young man and woman. Two poems concern the wedding ring and wedding day, and are followed by two poems about the conception and birth of their child. Another poem expresses the feelings and thoughts of the woman after her husband's death. This is where Schumann ends his settings of the poetry, having opted not to set the final poem, which reveals that the cycle will begin anew in the life of the granddaughter.

Before joining the School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997, Joselson spent more than 10 years in Europe performing operatic roles in guest appearances and engagements at theaters in Darmstadt, Hamburg, Essen and Basel. As guest she performed as soloist with opera companies and orchestras in Aachen, Barcelona, Berlin, Bilbao, Bonn, Braunschweig, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Essen, Brussels, Kiel, Gelsenkirchen, St. Gallen, Trier and New Brunswick. For the 1995-96 season, she had her first engagement at the Metropolitan Opera, and was engaged by London's Covent Garden for their 1992 Japan tour.

She has performed many of the major soprano roles in the repertoire, including Leonore in Beethoven's "Fidelio," in her most recent debut at the 1999 Gars, Austria, Summer Festival; Mimi in Puccini's "La Boheme," Micaela in Bizet's "Carmen," Melisande in Debussy's "Pelleas et Melisande," Donna Elvira in Mozart's "Don Giovanni" and Eva in Wagner's "Meistersingers of Nuremberg." She was featured in the 1998 recording of Gian Carlo Menotti's "Help! Help! The Globolinks!"

Lecuona maintains an active teaching and performing schedule at the UI School of Music, including frequent collaborations with her faculty colleagues. Since joining the faculty in1990 she has appeared in more than 55 on-campus concerts. She is featured on several CD recordings, including one with double bassist Diana Gannett of chamber music by Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms. In a recent review of the CD in Bass World, Lecuona's performance on the recording was described as "magnificent."

Lecuona has given solo and chamber music recitals throughout the United States, South America and the Caribbean. Most recently she performed and presented master classes in Mexico. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in a chamber performance in Weill Recital Hall in 1993, and she has appeared as concerto soloist with orchestras in New York and Iowa. As an Artistic Ambassador for the United States, she has given concerts and master classes in Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago. She has also performed solo recitals and given master classes at many universities in Brazil.

(NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: "Frauenliebe und -leben" is pronounced frow-en-LEE-beh unt LEH-ben.)

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/.