Sept. 17, 2009
UI Symphony plays the 'Firebird' Suite and a Rachmaninoff concerto Sept. 30
The University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra, conducted by William LaRue Jones, will open its 2009-10 season with a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30, in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union.
The program will be "The Good News from Beijing" by Zheng Lu and Ma Hongye, the 1919 version of "The Firebird" Suite by Igor Stravinsky and the Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff, featuring UI School of Music faculty soloist Ksenia Nosikova.
The concert will mark the return of the School of Music's nine-foot concert grand pianos to the UI Symphony stage. The grand pianos were rescued from the Voxman Music Building and Clapp Recital Hall as the 2008 floodwaters rose. And, as School of Music events became transient, transportation and insurance issues kept the large-scale grand pianos in storage.
Rachmaninoff was one of the celebrity virtuoso pianists of his era, and the piano plays an important role in his compositional output, which represents the last flowering of the Russian Romantic tradition. The Piano Concerto No. 3, which the composer completed in 1909, is generally regarded as one of the most difficult concertos in the piano repertoire -- challenging the soloist with extreme musical and technical demands, while delighting audiences with its soaring melodies.
Called a pianist of "impressive musicianship" and "refined sensibility and exquisite pianism, fascinating to watch and hear" by the Boston Globe and New York Concert Reviews, Nosikova has performed extensively as a solo pianist and chamber musician in Europe, Russia, United States, Asia and South America - including guest artist series at more than 70 U.S. college and universities. She is also the artistic director of the UI "Piano Sundays at Old Capitol" series, presented by the Old Capitol Museum and West Music.
Jones says he chose "The Good News from Beijing" as a light, rousing opener before the monumental Russian works that complete the program. "I was introduced to and conducted 'Good News From Beijing' on my first trip to Shenyang in 2007," he says. "It's a festive, up-tempo 'overture,' not musically sophisticated but fun for players and audiences."
Arts journalist Zachary Lewis wrote of "The Good News from Beijing," "this 1976 piece by Lu Zheng and Hongye Ma works its magic by never slowing down. After a few tranquil horn-calls, it becomes a bouncing scherzo with nothing but glad tidings to report."
Based on a Russian folktale, "The Firebird" was the first of the epochal ballet scores -- along with "The Rite of Spring" and "Petroushka" -- with which Stravinsky helped drag orchestral music into the 20th century. The 1919 suite -- the second of three concert suites that the composer distilled from the flashy 50-minute ballet score -- is the most frequently performed.
Visit the UI School of Music Web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/. A biography of Jones is accessible at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/bios/CONDjones.htm/, and Nosikova's extended biography is at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/bios/PIANOnosikova.htm/.
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