CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: March 30, 2001
(NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: "Schicksalslied" is pronounced SHICK-zahls-leed.)
University Symphony and Choruses will perform music by Verdi and Brahms
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University Symphony and Choruses from the University
of Iowa School of Music will perform music by two of the most prominent composers
of the 19th century -- Johannes Brahms and Giuseppe Verdi -- in their spring
concert, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 11 in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.
The concert, under the direction of Timothy Stalter, will be free and open
to the public.
Both composers are best known for other genres -- Brahms for his symphonies
and chamber music and Verdi for his operas -- but they also wrote significant
choral works. In fact, each wrote one major choral work that has become well
known, but it is not these monuments -- Brahms "German Requiem"
and Verdis "Requiem" -- that are being performed. Instead
the April 11 concert will feature the "Schicksalslied" (Song of
destiny) of Brahms and the "Four Sacred Songs" of Verdi.
Stalter believes that these works are every bit as impressive as the better
known choral works by the same composers. "Although Verdis Requiem
is his most famous choral composition," he said, "the Four
Sacred Songs are equally powerful, compelling and beautiful."
Choral forces for the concert will be drawn from several of the choruses
in the School of Music: the University Choir and Kantorei, conducted by Stalter;
Camerata, conducted by Richard Bloesch; and the Womens Chorale, conducted
by graduate student Robert Boer.
Voice faculty member Rachel Joselson will be the soloist for Verdis
Brahms discovered the poem "Hyperions Schicksalslied" by
Friedrich Hoelderlin in a friends library in 1868. He was impressed
by the poets expression of humanitys sense of alienation and made
the first drafts of his choral setting at once. He completed the work three
years later, conducting its premiere in Karlsruhe, Germany, in October 1871.
The poem, which is at once grim and powerful, apparently appealed to Brahms
strong sense of fatalism. The poem is in two contrasting sections, which are
paralleled in the musical setting. The first describes the untroubled serenity
and joy of the spirits who inhabit heaven, while the second depicts mortal
man as the plaything of a blind destiny.
One reason it took Brahms so long to complete "Schicksalslied"
is that he was uncertain how to end the score, after the grimness of the second
section. In the final version, the chorus fades into silence and the orchestra
restates the idyllic prologue, resolving the tension of the preceding choral
section and providing an element of consolation that is missing in the poem.
Although he is known principally for his dramatic works, Verdi composed
sacred music throughout his career. These include several youthful works and
the well-known "Requiem" of 1874.
He returned to sacred music in the final years of his life, including his
four final works. Although not originally intended to be performed together,
they were published in a single vocal score in 1898 as the "Four Sacred
Pieces," and from that date they have been considered as a cohesive group.
The Four Sacred Songs are: "Laudi alla Vergine Maria" (Lauds to
the Virgin Mary) for four-part unaccompanied female chorus; "Ave Maria
sulla scala enigmatica" (Hail Mary on an enigmatic scale) for four-part
unaccompanied chorus; "Stabat Mater" for four-part chorus and large
orchestra; and "Te Deum" for double chorus (SATB) and orchestra.
The "Laudi alla Vergine Maria" is a setting of a text by Dante
from the final canto of the "Paradiso." The music is reminiscent
of a Renaissance motet in form, although it is characterized by primarily
chordal texture with only occasional counterpoint.
The unusual "Ave Maria" is based on an "enigmatic scale"
that blends four separate scale types: minor, major, whole-tone, and chromatic.
The scale was originally published as a musical puzzle in the music journal
of Verdis publisher. Verdi considered the "Ave Maria" more
of a musical exercise than "real music," and initially he did not
wish to include it in performance with the three other pieces of the group.
The "Stabat Mater," which is characterized by unusual voicing,
extensive chromaticism, and lavish orchestration, is often considered an atmospheric
piece. Abundant and striking musical ideas, in several instances reminiscent
of Verdis operatic melodies, pervade the work.
The "Te Deum" is equally adventurous in its harmonic language
and even more dramatic than the "Stabat Mater." Its contrasting
textures, masterful contrapuntal writing, colorful instrumentation, and clear
thematic organization combine for a powerful conclusion to the cycle of four
works and to Verdis compositional career. In fact, it is said that Verdi
treasured the "Te Deum" so much that he wanted the score buried
Before joining the School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997, Joselson
spent 13 years in Europe performing in opera and concert with theaters and
orchestras in Darmstadt, Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn, Basel, Barcelona, Bilbao,
Braunschweig, Brussels, Kiel, St. Gallen, Trier, and other cities in Germany,
Switzerland and Spain. In this country she has appeared in Atlanta, Indianapolis,
Madison, Johnson City, Tenn., and New Brunswick, N.J.
In the 1995-96 season she had her first engagement at the Metropolitan Opera,
and was engaged by Londons Covent Garden for their 1992 Japan tour with
Mozarts "Don Giovanni."
She has performed many of the major soprano roles in the repertoire. She
is currently recording a CD of the songs of Swiss composer Arthur Honegger.
She was featured in the 1998 recording of Gian Carlo Menottis "Help!
Help! The Globolinks!"
Stalter joined the UI faculty as director of choral activities in 1999.
He directs Kantorei, the premier choral ensemble of the School of Music, teaches
graduate conducting courses, and oversees the graduate program in choral conducting.
An active member of the American Choral Directors Association, he frequently
presents clinics and workshops in choral conducting around the United States.
In addition to conducting and teaching choral music, Stalter is active as
a tenor soloist in the United States and abroad. A specialist in the music
of the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods, he is known for his performances
as the Evangelist in the Passions of J.S. Bach and Heinrich Schuetz. He has
appeared as tenor soloist with the Newfoundland Symphony, the North Carolina
Symphony, the Robert Shaw Festival Singers in France, the Robert Shaw Chamber
Choir in Atlanta, the Classical Music Seminar and Festival in Eisenstadt,
Austria, and the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival. He has recorded as tenor
soloist with conductor Robert Shaw on two compact discs released on the Telarc
The April 11 concert by the UI Symphony and Choruses is supported in part
by a contribution from the University of Iowa Community Credit Union.
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/.
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