CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release:Oct. 4, 2002
UNIVERSITY SYMPHONY PRESENTS MUSIC OF GEORGE GERSHWIN OCT. 16
Click on photo for enlargement
University of Iowa Symphony will present The Music of George Gershwin,
the second concert of the inaugural Signature Series of subscription concerts,
at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in Hancher Auditorium.
The concert, under the direction of William LaRue Jones, will feature pianist
Rene Lecuona of the UI music faculty in a performance of Gershwins ever
popular Rhapsody in Blue. Other works on the program will be Porgy
and Bess: A Symphonic Picture and An American in Paris
George Gershwin was a unique musician whose creativity within the standard
popular and jazz styles of the early 20th century has earned him a permanent
place in American musical history. He showed a remarkable ability to achieve
popular success, from the song Swanee, written in 1917 at the
age of 19, through a string of Broadway hits, until his premature death in
But Gershwin aimed for, and ultimately achieved, far more than popular success.
He studied composition with classically trained teachers, and he left behind
a remarkable legacy that crosses genres and styles in a way that seems particularly
American. He wrote popular songs that are counted among the best American
classics, numerous Broadway shows in rapid succession, concert pieces that
have entered the standard repertoire, and one work -- Porgy and Bess
-- that many people consider the first authentic American opera.
Toward the end of 1923, Gershwin had discussed the possibilities for a jazz
concerto for piano with the popular band leader Paul Whiteman. Early
in 1924 he accepted a commission from Whiteman, and with the help of Whitemans
arranger Ferde Grofe, he completed the Rhapsody in Blue in less than
six weeks. Gershwin played the solo part with the Whiteman Band on a concert
listed as An Experiment in Modern Music, in Aeolian Hall in New
York on Feb. 12, 1924. Most of the music on that concert is forgotten today,
but the Rhapsody in Blue was an immediate hit.
The first prominent American piece to apply the jazz style to a classical
from, Rhapsody in Blue was considered a milestone in Gershwins
career. Following that success, Gershwin went on to write a series of orchestral
works that incorporate jazz idioms, including the Piano Concerto in F, An
American in Paris and the Cuban Overture.
In 1928 Gershwin made his fifth and final tour of Europe. During the trip
he visited Paris to play both the Rhapsody in Blue and the European
premiere of the Concerto in F. It was on that trip that he began composition
of An American in Paris, which Gershwin described as the impressions
of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city, listens
to various street noises, and absorbs the French atmosphere. His first
concert piece written without a commission, An American in Paris
was first performed in Carnegie Hall on Dec. 13, 1928.
In 1926 Gershwin had read the novel Porgy by DuBose Heyward,
a native of Charleston, S.C., and immediately wrote to the author suggesting
that they collaborate on a folk opera based on the story. Heyward was enthusiastic
but it was not until 1934 that Gershwin had time to begin work on the project.
That year George and his brother Ira joined Heyward in Charleston, where Heyward
wrote the libretto, Ira and Heyward collaborated on the lyrics, and George
wrote the music.
Porgy and Bess was premiered in Boston on Sept. 30, 1935, in
a production that moved to Broadway a few days later. Since then it has been
produced both as a Broadway show and an opera. It first achieved international
recognition when a company of African-American singers toured with it to South
American and Europe in 1955. Recently Porgy and Bess has been
particularly successful in English and German opera houses.
In 1937, after the composers death, Pittsburgh Symphony conductor Fritz
Reiner commissioned Robert Russell Bennett, who had scored many Gershwin shows,
to write an orchestral suite. The resulting Symphonic Picture of Porgy
and Bess was premiered by Reiner and Pittsburgh Symphony in 1943.
Lecuona maintains an active teaching and performing schedule at the UI School
of Music, including frequent collaborations with her faculty colleagues. Since
joining the faculty in1990 she has appeared in more than 65 on-campus concerts.
She is featured on several CD recordings, including one with UI violinist
Annette-Barbara Vogel and cellist Fulbert Slenczka of chamber music by Hans
Gal, and she recorded many of the songs of Arthur Honegger with UI soprano
Lecuona has given solo and chamber music recitals throughout the United States,
South America and the Caribbean. She has appeared as concerto soloist with
orchestras in New York and Iowa. As an Artistic Ambassador for the United
States, she gave concerts and master classes in Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and
Trinidad and Tobago. She has also performed solo recitals and given master
classes at many universities in Brazil. She recently performed in the Goodman
Hall at Lincoln Center with Joselson.
An advocate of 20th-century music, Lecuona has appeared as solo pianist and
chamber musicians in concerts of the UI Center for New Music. Her 20th-century
repertoire includes several premieres of new works. Martin Jenni, recently
retired from the UI School of Music, has written two solo piano works for
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.).
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
Hanchers 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: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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/.
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