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Release: Oct. 6, 2000

University of Iowa Symphony will perform works by Verdi, Mahler and Sibelius Oct. 18

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra will give its second concert of the 2000-2001 season, featuring baritone soloist Jon Muriello and conductor William LaRue Jones, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18 in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.

The concert, featuring music by Giuseppe Verdi, Gustav Mahler and Jean Sibelius, will be free and open to the public.

The orchestra opened the 2000-2001 season Sept. 17 with a ticketed concert in Hancher Auditorium, featuring pianist Van Cliburn in a performance of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. The first collaboration ever between the University Symphony and a Hancher-sponsored artist, the concert was played before a sold-out auditorium.

All remaining concerts on the UI campus this year will be free.

For the Oct. 18 concert, the orchestra will play the Overture to Verdi’s opera "La Forza del destino" (The force of destiny); Mahler’s song cycle for baritone and orchestra, "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen" (Songs of a Wayfarer); and one of the most popular works in the orchestral repertoire, the Symphony no.2 in D major, op.43, by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

Verdi received a commission to write an opera for the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg in 1861, when he was at the height of his fame and popularity in Italy. The previous 10 years had seen the premieres of most of his best known and best loved operas, including "Rigoletto" (1851), "Il Trovatore" (1853), "La Traviata" (1857) and "Un ballo in maschera" ("A masked ball," 1859). In addition, Verdi and his music had become identified with Italian nationalism, and he was elected to the first Italian parliament in 1860.

"La Forza del destino," one of his more melodramatic works, was written for the commission from the Imperial Opera and premiered in St. Petersburg Nov. 22, 1862, with the composer in attendance. The overture, which captures the drama and strong emotions of the opera, is a staple of orchestral programs.

In 1883 Mahler was just beginning his career, working as second conductor for the opera theater in Kassel, Germany. He fell in love with a young singer, but she rejected him to marry someone else. In reaction, he wrote the "Songs of a Wayfarer" for baritone and piano, beginning with the text, "On my love’s wedding day, all will be merry there, but for me no joy will it bring."

"She doesn’t know them," Mahler wrote a friend, "but they can only tell her what she already knows." He arranged the songs for voice and orchestra and conducted the premiere of this version in Berlin in 1896.

Few composers have been more closely identified with their home countries than Sibelius, who wrote the tone poem "Finlandia" in honor of his homeland, as well as a number of orchestral and vocal works based on Finnish epics and folk legends. Of his seven symphonies, the second, composed in 1901, has consistently been the most popular.

A singer whose work ranges from opera and operetta to concert and musical theater, Muriello joined the UI School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997. His most recent engagements include performances as Captain Corcoran in "H.M.S. Pinafore" with the Skylight Opera Theatre in Milwaukee, and the Riverside Theatre’s production of "Sweet and Hot." In the fall of 1998 he made his directing debut with the UI School of Music production of the musical comedy "The Fantasticks," and he directed the School of Music production of "She Loves Me" in 1999.

Muriello has performed operatic and musical theater roles with Opera Carolina, the Banff Centre in Canada, L’Opera Francais of New York, Skylight Opera Theater, Ohio Light Opera and the Southeastern Savoyards of Atlanta. He performed as the Narrator and Mysterious Man in Sondheim’s "Into the Woods" and Marcello in "La Boheme" for Lyric Opera Cleveland. Other roles have ranged from Guglielmo in Mozart’s "Cosi fan tutte" to Voltaire in Bernstein’s "Candide."

He has also performed in concert and recital throughout the Midwest and the Southeast, singing in performances of Vaughan Williams’ "Five Mystical Songs" and "Hodie," the Brahms "Requiem" and the Bach Mass in B minor.

He was a winner in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in North Carolina, in the Washington International Competition and the Louise D. McMahon International Song Competition in Oklahoma, and toured two seasons with the Mantovani 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, 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 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.).

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

For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <deborah-thumma@uiowa.edu>.