University of Iowa News Release
Release: Feb. 28, 2003
Guest Conductors Will Lead UI Symphony Band March 12
Three guest conductors will be on the program of a free concert by the University of Iowa Symphony Band at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 12 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.
Andrew Mast, who is director of bands and head of the music department at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, will conduct "Music for Prague 1968" by Czech composer Karel Husa; UI doctoral student Michael Knight will conduct the "Adagio for Wind Orchestra" by Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo; and Ken Thompson, a UI doctoral student and the associate conductor of the St. Louis Wind Symphony, will conduct the suite from "The Good Soldier Schweik" by American composer Robert Kurka.
The Symphony Band usually performs under the direction of UI music faculty member Myron Welch, who is currently on sabbatical leave.
At the time it was written, Husa's "Music for Prague 1968" was a highly celebrated score that received wide attention because of the political events of the time: the "Prague Spring" of 1968 and the subsequent Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
The score was commissioned by the Ithaca College Concert Band and composed during the summer and fall of 1968. It was premiered in 1969 by conductor Kenneth Sapp and the Ithaca College band in a concert for the Music Educators National Conference in Washington, D.C.
The composer's program note states, "Three main ideas bind the composition together. The first and most important is an old Hussite war song from the 15th century, 'Ye Warriors of God and His Law,' a symbol of resistance and hope for hundreds of years, whenever fate lay heavy on the Czech nation. It has been utilized also by many Czech composers, including Smetana in 'Ma Vlast' (My homeland). The beginning of this religious song is announced very softly in the first movement by the timpani and concludes in a strong unison.
"The second idea is the sound of bells. Prague, known for its hundreds of church steeples, has used its church bells as calls of distress as well as of victory.
"The last idea is a motif of three chords first appearing very softly under the piccolo solo at the beginning of the piece, in flutes, clarinet and horns. Later it reappears at extremely strong dynamic levels.
"Much symbolism also appears (in the score): in addition to the distress calls in the first movement (Fanfares), the unbroken hope of the Hussite song, the sound of bells, or the tragedy (Aria), there is also the bird call at the beginning (piccolo solo), a symbol of liberty which the City of Prague has seen only for moments during its 1,000 years of existence."
Rodrigo's "Adagio" was composed in 1962 on a commission from Robert Boudreau and the American Wind Symphony. The score presents two moods in a series of five contrasting and alternating sections. In the opening, middle and closing sections the mood is tranquil and placid with a singing melody line that is passed throughout the upper woodwinds. In sections two and four the mood is exciting and rhythmic with the brass supplying the energy and drive.
A native of Cicero, Ill., Robert Kurka studied violin at Columbia University. Primarily self-taught as a composer, he studied briefly with American electronic music pioneer Otto Luening and French composer Darius Milhaud. The suite from his opera "The Good Soldier Schweik" was inspired by an anti-war satire written by the Czech novelist and journalist Jaroslav Hasek. Written shortly after World War I, the story is about the common man who is forced to become a soldier who must fight for a cause for which he has no sympathy.
The opera, and the movements of the suite, represent the book's recurring themes: the common man forced to fight, the seriousness and irony of war, life in a military state and finally, Schweik's optimism for better times.
Mast conducts the Symphonic Band and Jazz Ensemble at St. Ambrose University, where he also serves as music department chair and teaches conducting and instrumental techniques courses. In the spring of 1999 he was named music director of the Quad City Wind Ensemble and is the founder and music director of the new Quad City Area Youth Wind Symphony. He received his doctorate from the UI in May of 2000.
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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