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Release: Nov. 14, 2002

Photos: Two high-resolution images of conductor Timothy Stalter, director of choral activities at the UI School of Music, are available. Photo 1. Photo 2.

University Symphony Presents 'Great Brahms Requiem' Dec. 4

The University of Iowa Symphony and Choruses and the Chamber Singers of Iowa City will join forces to present "The Great Brahms Requiem," continuing the orchestra's inaugural Signature Series of subscription concerts, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4 in Hancher Auditorium.

The performance will be under conductor Timothy Stalter, director of choral activities at the UI School of Music. Choral forces will comprise the combined singers from the Chamber Singers of Iowa City, David Puderbaugh, conductor; and four groups from the School of Music: the Women's Chorale, Paul Mayhew, conductor; Camerata, Marc Falk, conductor; and Kantorei and University Choir, Timothy Stalter, conductor.

Soloists from the UI School of Music faculty will be soprano Rachel Joselson and baritone Stephen Swanson.

Johannes Brahms' "Ein Deutsches Requiem" (A German Requiem) is one of the most popular choral works in the classical tradition -- so much so, Stalter said, that he had requests to sing in the chorus from music faculty and members of the local community.

"This great composition is beloved because it is so well conceived from beginning to end," Stalter said. "Nothing is forced or awkward in the writing, which allows the music to flow easily and without interruption. It's just a wonderful piece to sing and to play.

"This is not to say, however, that it is not emotionally rewarding or musically demanding, for the composition is profoundly mature and organic in its construction and symmetry."

Another reason the pieces is so popular is probably that its emotional content emphasizes warmth, rather than the terror of the final judgment or a sense of loss. "This Requiem is one of comfort," Stalter explained. "All statements of mourning and death turn to uplifting texts of hope and consolation. Instead of the loudest sections representing impending judgment, the large gestures for Brahms represent praise, trust, protection and a defiant attitude towards death."

The "German Requiem" was composed over a 14-year period from 1854-1868, in a methodical way that was characteristic of Brahms' working habits. It was started in 1854, when Brahms was actually working on his first symphony. When he decided to turn that work into a piano concerto, he discarded the slow movement, which later became the second movement of the Requiem.

Following the tragic death of Brahms' close friend and mentor Robert Schumann in 1856, the composer began an eight-year period of on-and-off work on the Requiem. However, it wasn't until the death of his mother in 1865 that the impetus was provided for him to complete a six-movement version of the score. The final movement -- today the fifth movement of the completed work -- was composed in 1868, and the completed seven-movement work was first performed in February of 1869 in Leipzig.

One of Brahms' most personal and moving works, the "German Requiem" is not a Requiem at all, in the liturgical sense, but rather a sequence of movements based on Biblical texts selected by the composer for their personal significance. Although Brahms was not overtly religious, he frequently read the children's Bible that was given him in his first year of life, and it was from this Bible that he chose the passages for the Requiem. The texts he selected convey a message of comfort and hope, even though neither Christ nor Christ's resurrection is mentioned. Brahms once told a friend that he could happily omit the word "German" in the title and simply say "human."

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 master's degree from the University of Illinois, where he studied with Don Moses, who was UI director of choral activities in the 1980s.

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, Wis., Johnson City, Tenn., and New Brunswick, N.J. In the 1995-96 season she had her first engagement at the Metropolitan Opera.

She has performed many of the major soprano roles in the repertoire, including Leonore in Beethoven's "Fidelio"; Mimi in Puccini's "La Boheme," Micaela in Bizet's "Carmen," Donna Elvira in Mozart's "Don Giovanni," Tosca, Elisabetta in Verdi's Don Carlo, and Eva in Wagner's "Meistersingers of Nuremberg," among others. She has completed a CD of the songs of Swiss composer Arthur Honegger and was featured in the 1998 recording of Gian Carlo Menotti's "Help! Help! The Globolinks!"

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. During that time his repertoire grew to 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 festivals including the Berliner Festwochen, the Days of Contemporary Music in Dresden and the Festa Musica Pro in Assisi, Italy.

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. He has recorded Mendelssohn's "St. Paul" and Ullmann's "Der Kaiser von Atlantis." Since coming to Iowa City, he has presented solo recitals, appeared in and directed UI Opera Theater productions, and performed with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.

General seating ticket prices for the concerts in the Signature Series are $7 for general admission ($5 for seniors and $3 for UI students and youth). Tickets are available from the Hancher Auditorium Box Office.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website:< http://www.uiowa.edu/hancher >.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: <hancherboxoffice@uiowa.edu>.

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 <ur-acr@uiowa.edu>.