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Release: Jan. 26, 2001

University of Iowa Symphony will start the New Year with the '2001' fanfare

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Symphony will open its first concert of the New Year -- at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus -- with the introduction to the Richard Strauss tone poem "Also sprach Zarathustra," better known as the fanfare from the film "2001: A Space Odyssey."

The concert, under the direction of William LaRue Jones, will also feature cellist Amos Yang in a performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. Other works on the concert, which will be free and open to the public, will be "Huapango" by Mexican composer Jose Pablo Moncayo Garcia, and Symphony No. 2 ("Mysterious Mountain") by American composer Alan Hovhaness.

Strauss wrote "Also sprach Zarathustra" in 1896 as an attempt to put into music his response to Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical treatise describing humanity’s development from primitive beginnings to triumphant "superman." This program -- and the highly dramatic nature of the music -- made the introduction ideal for the opening scenes of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey," showing the primitive beginnings of human development.

The last of several major works Dvorak composed in America, the Cello Concerto was written in New York in 1894 and ‘95. Although it was inspired by a Cello Concerto by Victor Herbert, Dvorak’s concerto does not reflect American influences. At the time he was working on the concerto, Dvorak had turned his thoughts to his impending return to his beloved Bohemia.

During the composition of the concerto, he received word of the serious illness of his sister-in-law, Josefina Kaunitzova. Saddened by the news, Dvorak worked into the concerto’s slow movement the theme from a song of his she had particularly admired, "Leave me alone." After Josefina died in May, 1895, Dvorak changed the ending of the concerto to include a further, wistful reference to the song.

Moncayo was a prominent figure in the musical life of mid-20th-century Mexico. He studied with Carlos Chavez, the most prominent Mexican composer of the time, and with Aaron Copland at the Tanglewood Music Center. Moncayo’s works were known for their use of Mexican elements derived from both Hispanic and pre-Columbian folk idioms. In 1935 Moncayo joined three other Mexican composers to form the "Grupo de los Cuarto" (The group of four) to advance the awareness and presentation of contemporary Mexican music, and he wrote a number of chamber compositions for the group’s concerts.

"Huapango," a type of Mexican dance, was Moncayo’s first orchestral work. It was first performed by the Orquestra Sinfonica de Mexico, conducted by Chavez, in 1941.

An American of Armenian-Scottish descent, Alan Hovhaness was a composer of extensive cross-cultural interests. Introduced to Eastern European music by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu at Tanglewood, Hovhaness studied Armenian folk and religious music, traveled to India and Japan, and incorporated elements of Asian styles in his compositions. He came to believe that music should reflect the natural style of folk music, and all of his works have a strong emphasis on melody. He wrote hundreds of works, including more than 60 symphonies, several concertos and other concert works, film music, operas, ballets, choral music, chamber music, songs and piano pieces.

The Symphony No. 2 was commissioned by the conductor Leopold Stokowski for his debut with the Houston Symphony on Oct. 31, 1955. The title "Mysterious Mountain" was added later in reference, the composer said, to an imaginary place where "the mundane and spiritual worlds meet."

Yang is a member of the Maia Quartet, the quartet in residence at the UI School of Music. Yang joined the group in 1996 after playing with the Deutsche Kammerakademie (German Academy of Chamber Music) in Dusseldorf and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. He has won first prize in the Grace Vamos Cello Competition and the American String Teacher’s Association Cello Competition and was a finalist in the Pierre Fournier Cello Competition. He has performed a wide range of concertos and played chamber music with the Ying Quartet, pianist Ann Schein and violinists Perrin Yang and Earl Carlyss.

Yang holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School. He also studied at the Eastman School of Music and in London, England, under a grant from the Beebe Foundation. He attended the Tanglewood Music Festival, where he received the C.D. Jackson Award for outstanding contribution to the festival in 1994.

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.).

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts.

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>.