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Release: March 29, 2002

Brass Quintet from UI will perform 19th-century rarity on April 8 concert

The Iowa Brass Quintet, a resident faculty ensemble at the UI School of Music, will be joined by four music faculty and graduate students to perform the rarely heard Nonet in C minor of 19th-century composer Felicien-Cesar David as part of a free concert at 8 p.m. Monday, April 8 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

In addition to the Nonet, the quintet will perform two contemporary works for brass quintet: "Four Sketches" by Anthony Ploog and "Double" by Lewis Nielson.

The Iowa Brass Quintet performs on the UI campus each semester and for schools, universities, civic concert associations and professional meetings throughout the United States. Its members are David Greenhoe and Barbara Deur, trumpets; Jeffrey Agrell, horn; David Gier, trombone; and Robert Yeats, tuba.

Performing with them for the David Nonet will be Kristin Thelander, horn, who is director of the School of Music; and graduate students Jeremy Hansen, horn; Sarah Giovanelli, horn; and Jessica Wach, euphonium.

The Nonet is rarely performed because the unusual combination of nine instruments does not correspond to any standard instrumental ensemble. Outside of a university campus, assembling the extra players for such an unusual grouping would be time-consuming and expensive.

The performance provides an unusual opportunity for audiences in another way, since David's music is rarely heard in the United States. One of the most curious and idiosyncratic musicians of the 19th century, David wrote a number of works that made a large impression when they were first heard, but that have been largely overlooked in recent times.

Born in southern France, he was orphaned at the age of five and raised by an older sister. He sang in the cathedral choir as a child and later worked as assistant conductor in the theater in Aix. At 18 he became choirmaster at the cathedral, and two years later moved to Paris for further musical study.

In 1831 he became involved with the Saint-Simonians, a sect of Christian socialists that wanted to use science and politics to end poverty. Their radical proposals, including common ownership of all wealth, caused the government to ban the group in 1832, and David set out with 12 others to preach the Saint-Simonian gospel in the Middle East. He stayed nearly two years in Cairo, giving music lessons and exploring the desert, returning to France in June 1835.

His musical success began in 1844 with "Le desert," a symphonic ode that met with immediate acclaim and led to a series of descriptive works exploring oriental subjects -- a trend that continued in the works of much better known French composers including Gounod, Bizet, Saint-Saens and Messiaen.

David lived out his life in Paris as a successful composer of instrumental works and operas, many of them on exotic themes. His opera "Lalla-Roukh," set in Kashmir, is considered his masterpiece. He became respectable enough to be appointed to the honorary position of librarian at the Paris Conservatory. David remained content to exploit his talent for the picturesque and the evocative, and while he retained his Saint-Simonian faith, there is no trace of social dogma in his later works.

The Nonet was written in 1839, one of a number of instrumental works written in years preceding the success of "Le desert." One of the first scores written for valved brass instruments, the Nonet was known to Berlioz, who performed two movements at a public concert in 1845. The Nonet was not heard again for more than a century; the first modern performance took place in London at a Henry Wood Promenande Concert in August 1991 by the London Gabrieli Brass ensemble.

Nielson's "Double" was written for the Iowa Brass Quintet in 2001, on a commission from the UI Center for New Music. The structure is based on the "Jeu partie," a two-part poetic form from the Middle Ages. The first section consisted of a poem professing a viewpoint on a courtly subject; the second section then presented an opposing or contrasting viewpoint.

Neilson says the two parts of "Double" represent "two modes of composing out the same general idea. The first movement is a cold and forbidding place, much like the rather terrifying still lives of early 19th-century painters (especially Goya) . . . The second movement takes the main elements of the first and 'finds' a variety of musical places for them to reside . . . the atmosphere being large and highly energetic, always aiming for a real bravura finish."

Ploog has had a successful international career as a trumpet player, including many solo appearances and recordings. He is increasing active as a composer, and in 1990 a CD of his music was recorded by the Summit Brass and St. Louis Brass Quintet. "Four Sketches" was commissioned by the St. Louis Brass Quintet, who premiered the original version of the score in 1989.

Greenhoe has been on the faculty of the UI School of Music and the principal trumpeter of the Quad City Symphony since 1979. He is also chair of the brass area at the UI and is active as a soloist and recitalist. During summer seasons he performs as solo trumpeter with the Lake Placid (N.Y.) Sinfonietta, a post he has held since 1975.

Deur is a member of the Quad Cities Symphony and has been a trumpet instructor at UI. She has performed widely as a soloist and clinician, has been principal trumpet of the Des Moines Symphony and has been a member of the Cedar Rapids Symphony.

Gier came to the UI in August 1995. He has taught at Baylor University and Central Connecticut State University. He began his professional career in New England as a member of the Springfield (Mass.) Symphony and Orchestra New England. He has performed with numerous professional ensembles, including the New Haven, Hartford, Waco and San Angelo symphonies, and Keith Brion's Peerless Sousa Band. He is currently principal trombone of the Breckenridge (Colo.) Festival Orchestra.

Agrell is a visiting faculty member in the School of Music. Before coming to Iowa, he was a member of U.S. Army Bands from 1970 to 1973 and was associate principal horn with the Lucerne (Switzerland) Symphony Orchestra from 1975 until 2000. During that time he also performed chamber music throughout Europe. Widely respected as performer, teacher and composer, Agrell was invited to be a guest artist/clinician at the 2001 Workshop of the International Horn Society.

Yeats has taught at the UI for more than 20 years. He was principal tubist with the Cedar Rapids Symphony for 19 years and has appeared as soloist with many professional orchestras, bands and brass ensembles on the East Coast and across the Midwest. At the UI he teaches tuba and euphonium, directs the Collegium Tubum and edits the "University of Iowa Guide to Selected Wind and Percussion Materials."

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 Woodwind 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 recorded solo and chamber music for Crystal Records, CRI, Vienna Modern masters and Centaur Records.

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>.