University of Iowa News Release
Feb. 10, 2005
UI Symphony Will Play Music By Retired Faculty Member Eldon Obrecht Feb. 23
The second performance ever of a symphony by long-time Iowa City resident and retired University of Iowa Professor Eldon Obrecht will be presented on a concert by the University Symphony with conductor William LaRue Jones at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.
The concert is part of the University Symphony's Signature Series of subscription concerts.
Soprano Susan Sondrol Jones will be featured as a soloist in the performance of Obrecht's Symphony in C. Other works on the concert are "Sensemaya" by Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas and Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, the "Eroica."
"I'm still pleased with the dear old thing," Obrecht said recently about the Symphony in C, which he has not heard since its first performance. Composed as Obrecht's doctoral thesis, the symphony was premiered by the University Symphony April 19, 1950, in the Iowa Memorial Union. Philip Greeley Clapp conducted the performance, and Maxine Obrecht, the composer's wife, was the soprano soloist.
Subtitled "On Shelley Motives," the symphony features settings of two poems by English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. "As an undergraduate I took all the literature classes I could," Obrecht said. "One was a course in 19th-century English literature. That's where I got very much interested in Shelley and Byron, but especially in Shelley."
The symphony's second and fourth movements are settings of poems by Shelley. The text for the second movement is a poetic fragment, "When soft winds and sunny skies." The fourth movement uses the fifth stanza of Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind," which opens with a musical reference, "Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is" and ends with a line that Obrecht, a life-long Iowan, finds particularly appealing this time of year: "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
"Shelley had a very musical ear," Obrecht said after reading the text aloud. "Isn't that wonderful stuff?"
Born on the last day of the 1800s, Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas was of the same generation as painters Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and José Clemente Orozco, with whom he shared leftist political convictions. He studied violin and composition at the National Conservatory in Mexico City and the Chicago Musical College and later returned to Mexico to join the National Conservatory and the Mexico Symphony Orchestra. Almost all of his major works, including orchestral pieces, chamber music and film scores, were composed between 1931 and his death in 1940.
Revueltas's best-known work, "Sensemaya" was inspired by a poem evoking African ritual by Cuban poet Nicolas Guillen. The complex score is built from a series of distinct, energetic motives that are layered above repeating rhythmic patterns. The music resembles the "primitivism" of Stravinsky, but with a distinctly Mexican tinge that derives from the use of Latin syncopations and unexpected turns of melody.
Composed 1802-04, the "Eroica" Symphony was one of the works with which Beethoven established a revolutionary approach to musical composition that took its name from the symphony: his "heroic" style. Encompassing the works written in the first dozen or so years of the 19th century, this style appears in many of his best known works, among them the third through eighth symphonies, third through fifth piano concertos, the violin concerto and many of his greatest piano sonatas and string quartets, among others.
The Third Symphony has a well-known history. It was written during Napoleon's rise to power in France. Beethoven first titled the symphony-in-progress "Bonaparte," but when he learned that Napoleon had crowned himself Emperor, Beethoven angrily scratched out the title. When it was published, the Third Symphony appeared as "Sinfonia eroica, to celebrate the memory of a great man."
A truly groundbreaking score, the "Eroica" is longer than any previous symphony. While it has the standard four-movement plan, each movement goes far beyond the 18th-century norm. They are: a monumental first movement that unfolds from the opening two chords; a dramatic funeral march; the first of Beethoven's rhythmically powerful symphonic scherzos; and a complex set of variations that ends with a triumphant restatement of its theme. The symphony's emotional content spans tragedy and triumph, and the drama extends across all four movements, so that the final coda caps off the entire symphony, resolving the musical drama that has developed from the outset.
A UI music alumnus, William LaRue 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, he 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 a wide array of professional, festival, collegiate and student ensembles throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. He has conducted more than 70 all-state orchestras with additional festival/clinics in most of the 50 states and Canadian provinces. He has served extended conducting residencies at the North Carolina School for the Arts, the University of Miami, Interlochen Academy for the Arts and Kansas City Conservatory and is the founding artistic director of the critically acclaimed Conductors Workshop of America.
William LaRue 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.
An alumna of the UI School of Music, Susan Sondrol Jones is an adjunct professor of voice and coordinator of the voice, opera and choral areas. She has had an extremely diverse professional career, having appeared in opera and oratorio throughout the Midwest, been a member of the renowned Dale Warland Singers and the Bach Society of Minnesota, and sung solo recitals with a variety of instrumental combinations.
Opera roles include Corisande in the Baroque opera "Amadis" by Jean-Baptiste Lully, Euridice in Offenbach's fanciful operetta "Orpheus in the Underworld," roles in contemporary operas by Hans Werner Henze and Giancarlo Menotti, and traditional operatic characters including all three major female roles in Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro": the Countess, Susanna and Cherubino.
A great deal of her career has focused on the teaching of singing, beginning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Summer Music Clinic and extending to faculty appointments at the UW Parkside and the MacPhail Center for the Arts at the University of Minnesota. She has held several administrative positions, including general manager of the Minneapolis Chamber Symphony and Executive Director of the Minnesota Chorale.
Obrecht taught double bass at the UI School of Music from 1947 until his retirement in 1990. An avid performer, he was principal double bass of the Quad City Symphony and frequently played recitals and chamber concerts with his faculty colleagues. As a composer he wrote three symphonies, a concerto, and numerous works for the double bass.
But Obrecht was best known as a teacher. He is remembered by several generations of UI students for his popular class, "Masterpieces of Music," which he took over when Clapp, the first director of the School of Music, died in 1954, and taught until his retirement. Now 84, Obrecht continues to live in Iowa City. He retired from the Quad City Symphony last year but continues to play the double bass.
Individual tickets to University Symphony concerts are $8 (UI student and youth $3; senior citizen $6) and 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, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.
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