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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 19, 2009

UI Symphony and Choirs perform Mendelssohn's 'Hymn of Praise' Dec. 2

The University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra and Choirs, conducted by Timothy Stalter, will celebrate the 200th birthday of Felix Mendelssohn's birth with a free performance of his Symphony No. 2, Op. 52 -- "Lobgesang" (Hymn of Praise) -- at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2, in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union.

Written in 1840 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Gutenberg's invention of moveable type -- an apt focus for a Mendelssohn celebration at the writing university, in a UNESCO City of Literature -- the work as conceived by Mendelssohn as a symphonic cantata, with biblical texts primarily from the Psalms and the letters of Paul.

The symphony, in B-flat Major, follows the pattern of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, beginning with three orchestral movements, followed by nine movements featuring chorus with soloists. The soloists will be graduate students Lynell Kruckenberg and Jacqueline Lang, sopranos, and tenor Chaz'men Williams-Ali, an undergraduate student.

Although he died at the relatively young age of 37, Mendelssohn was one of the most prolific composers and influential cultural figures of the early Romantic period in Europe. He was born into a prominent Jewish family that converted to Protestantism, and his prodigious musical talents were recognized early.

He gave his first public concert at the age of nine; in his early teens he wrote a dozen string symphonies; and at 13 he published his first work, a piano quartet. An octet and his overture to "A Midsummer Night's Dream," written when he was 16 and 17, clearly established him as a musical genius.

At the age of 20 Mendelssohn produced and conducted a performance of Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" -- the first performance since Bach's death in 1750 -- launching the Bach revival.

He also traveled throughout Europe -- reflected in his "Hebrides" Overture, the "Scottish" Symphony and the "Italian" Symphony -- especially finding success in England.

Mendelssohn was appointed conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1835, and, with the founding of the Leipzig Conservatory, he helped make Leipzig one of the cultural centers of Europe. In his programming for the orchestra he also helped renew interest in Schubert and Schumann.

A combination of declining health and depression in response to the death of his sister, Fanny, resulted in his early death in 1847.

The Second Symphony -- like his more famous oratorio's "Elijah" and "St. Paul" -- asserted his Protestant identity. Because of his Jewish ancestry, Mendelssohn came under attack, particularly from Wagner. The Nazi regime, in fact, banned the performance of his works.

Recent decades have brought a resurgence of appreciation for Mendelssohn's lyrical, conservative artistry, and at this point he is one of the most popular composers of the Romantic era. Virtually all of his output -- which includes music for piano, organ, voice and various chamber ensembles, as well as opera, concertos and symphonic works -- is available in recordings, and his works are frequently showcased in concert programming worldwide.

The UI School of Music is a unit of the division of performing arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For UI arts calendar information, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to and click the link "Join or Leave ACR News," then follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One,  Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Tim Stalter,; Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073 (office) 319-430-1013 (cell),