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Release: Oct. 5, 2001

UI Chamber Orchestra features faculty soloists in Britten's 'Serenade' Oct. 14

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Chamber Orchestra will perform music by Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler and Benjamin Britten in a free concert at 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The concert will be under the direction of William LaRue Jones. UI School of Music faculty members Timothy Stalter, tenor, and Kristin Thelander, horn, will be featured in a performance of Britten's Serenade for tenor, horn & strings, op.31. Other works on the program will be the "Siegfried Idyll" by Wagner and the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony No. 5.

Britten's Serenade was written during the Second World War. It was composed for two great performers, tenor Peter Pears and horn virtuoso Dennis Brain, who were the soloists at the first performance of the Serenade in London on Oct. 15, 1943. The texts were taken from several different poems, all relating in some way to night or sleep -- a subject that takes on a particularly poignant or even sinister significance during wartime.

Edward Sackville-West, to whom Britten dedicated the work, wrote: "The subject is Night and its prestigia: the lengthening shadow, the distant bugle at sunset, the baroque panoply of the starry sky, the heavy angels of sleep; but also the cloak of evil -- the worm in the heart of the rose, the sense of sin in the heart of man."

In 1870, Richard Wagner was in the middle of the composition of "Siegfried," one of the four works in his massive cycle of music dramas, "The Ring of the Nibelungen." For Christmas of that year, Wagner wrote one of his few purely instrumental works, a pastoral idyll for chamber orchestra based on themes from "Siegfried" and other melodies. He presented this "Siegfried Idyll" to his wife, Cosima, performing the work on Christmas morning with the orchestra seated on the stairs of their home, "Tribschen," on the shores of Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.

The work was written as a tribute to both Cosima and their son, named for the hero of Wagner's "Siegfried," who was then about a year and a half old. The score uses themes from the music drama that are particularly associated with Siegfreid's love for Brunnhilde. Two other recurring themes capture the image of the young Siegfried: a descending "sigh" motive that seems to mimic the yawns of a sleepy baby, and the cradle song "Sleep Little Child," which is played by the oboe in the middle of the work.

Inscribed with the musical score is a poem that Wagner wrote for Cosima in commemoration of the occasion. It honors her "noble sacrifice" for bearing him a son that Wagner characterizes as "the recompense of our love."

Mahler completed his Fifth Symphony in the summer of 1902, but the revision process continued up to the year of his death. The entire symphony was written in three parts, with the first and last movements divided into two subsections. The Adagietto begins the third part, leading without pause into the Rondo Finale. As such, it doubles as the symphony's only slow movement and a prelude to the finale.

Scored for only strings and harp, the Adagietto was at one time far more popular than the rest of Mahler's extensive symphonic output. It has often been performed alone, and it was recorded long before the rest of the Fifth Symphony. The movement was also featured -- in a particularly dismembered form -- in Luchino Visconti's film adaptation of Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice." The long, languid melodies and rich harmonies are perfect representations of the late Romantic style, heavily decorated with appoggiaturas and suspensions, and with the frequent harmonic modulations and extreme dynamic fluctuations that were characteristic of the period. The hesitating rhythms of the harp part provide a sense of uncertainty to the movement.

Music annotator Michael Steinberg wrote of the movement, "If any one movement can convey the essence both of Mahler's heartache and of his melodic style . . . this Adagietto is it."

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 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.

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 administers the graduate program in choral conducting. He has research interests in teaching conducting to undergraduate and graduate students and historical music performance practices. 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 label.

Prior to coming to the UI, Stalter was on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Goshen College in Indiana. He received a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, where he studied with renowned choral conductor Robert Fountain, and a masters from the University of Illinois, where he studied with Don Moses, who was UI director of choral activities in the 1980s.

Thelander joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in 1989 and was elected director of the School of Music in 2000. Active as both soloist and chamber musician, she is a member of the Iowa Brass Quintet. As a guest artist she performed a solo with the Chinese National Opera Orchestra for the opening concert of the International Horn Symposium held in Beijing in July, 2000. During the summer she performs with the Britt Festival Orchestra in Jacksonville, Ore.

She was the first prize-winner in the 1981 American Horn Competition, and she has performed throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico, South Korea and the People's Republic of China. She has been a featured artist at many regional and international horn workshops in recent years, and she performed as soloist with the La Crosse Symphony, the Heartland of America Air Force Band, the Lake Agassiz Concert Band, the Britt Festival Orchestra, the Iowa Baroque Orchestra, the Greeley (Colo.) Philharmonic and the Santa Fe Symphony. She has recorded solo and chamber music for Crystal Records, CRI, Vienna Modern masters and Centaur Records.

Before coming to Iowa Thelander was on the music faculty at the University of New Mexico, and she was a member of the New Mexico Brass Quintet, the Santa Fe Symphony and the New Mexico Symphony. She holds degrees from St. Olaf College, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin.

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

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