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Release: Feb. 15, 2002

UI Chamber Orchestra Will Feature Faculty Soloists Feb. 24

The University of Iowa Chamber Orchestra will showcase three School of Music faculty soloists on their next concert, at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The concert, under the direction of William LaRue Jones, will be free and open to the public.

The program will comprise only two works: "Old American Songs" by Aaron Copland, with baritone Stephen Swanson as soloist; and Benjamin Britten's Double Concerto for violin and viola, with violinist Timothy Shiu and violist Christine Rutledge.

The two composers on this program had very different and personal styles that have little in common. Nevertheless, Copland and Britten respected one another's work. They met in England in 1938, and Copland played an indirect role in luring Britten to the United States just before World War II. The two remained friends throughout Britten's wartime stay in the United States and after.

The Old American Songs represent a distinct effort on Copland's part to recreate an American musical heritage, and they are his most important contribution to the repertoire for solo voice. Most of the songs originated in pre-Civil War America and run the gamut of traditions, including banjo melodies, campaign satires, spirituals, children's lullabies, hymns, revivalist songs and folk ballads, all set with simple but expressive accompaniments. Copland has said he chose these particular tunes because they are all direct, vigorous, lacking chromatic elaboration, and harmonized primarily in a major mode.

After Copland completed the first set of "Old American Songs" in the winter of 1950, he sang some of the pieces for Britten and tenor Peter Pears. Britten and Pears were so delighted that they offered to premiere the completed songs for the Aldeburgh Festival that summer. The first set was thus first performed in June 1950 with Britten on piano and Pears singing.

The orchestration that Copland added in 1954-55 serves to enrich the sound and rhythmic elements of each piece, which also heightens the scenic descriptions. For example, the sunny river landscape strikes the listener from the opening chord of "The Boatmen's Dance," as does the mock banjo strumming in "The Dodger."

Britten was still a composition student at the Royal College of Music in 1932, when he wrote the Double Concerto. Set in a conventional three-movement form, the concerto reflects many of the contending influences of the day: Second Viennese School serialism, English nationalism, neo-Classicism, French Impressionism and jazz. The lively dance rhythms of the third movement, for example, are highly uncharacteristic of Britten's later compositional style. Yet they achieve a powerful backdrop in which to explore the interplay between solo instruments.

Britten was extraordinarily prolific as a teenage composer, and many of his early works were set aside as he forged ahead with his next project. The Double Concerto was nearly complete in Britten's own manuscript, except for a few details of scoring, but 65 years elapsed before the concerto was premiered at the 50th Aldeburgh Festival in 1997 -- more than 20 years after Britten's death -- in a version completed by Colin Matthews.

Swanson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in 1994. For nearly 20 years before that date he had an active operatic career in Europe, with 91 roles in opera, operetta and musicals. He has sung on German, Austrian and Dutch radio broadcasts and has been a featured soloist in European. Swanson has also had an extensive career as a concert singer, appearing as featured soloist with many U.S. orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony under Sir Georg Solti, Raphael Fruehbeck de Burgos and Margaret Hillis.

Since coming to Iowa City, he has presented solo recitals, appeared in and directed UI Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater productions, and performed with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.

A founding member of the Maia Quartet, Shiu joined the UI faculty with the other members of the quartet in 1998. He has concertized extensively throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia, and has collaborated with violinist Peter Zazovsky of the Muir Quartet, violist Michael Tree of the Guarneri Quartet, the late flutist Samuel Baron and other renowned chamber musicians. He has been a member of the Canton (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra and the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra in Louisiana, where he held the position of Principal Second Violin.

Rutledge joined the UI faculty in 1998. She had previously been a faculty member at Notre Dame University, where she also played with the Notre Dame String Trio. She is a graduate of the UI School of Music, where she studied with William Preucil.

She has appeared as soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player throughout the United States and abroad. Her performances and recordings with the Notre Dame String Trio have earned glowing reviews from The Strad, Fanfare and other music publications. Her solo performances have included those before her professional peers at the 23rd International Viola Congress in Bloomington, Ind., the 24th Congress in Germany, and the 2Xth International Viola Congress in Sweden. She has performed the standard viola repertoire, her own transcriptions of Baroque works, several lesser known works for viola, and new works that were written specifically for her.

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 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.

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

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>.