Archive for Thursday, April 8, 1999


April 8, 1999


A Kansas University alumna is returning to Lawrence to perform the premiere of a piano composition by Maria Newman.

The world premiere of "Ninnescah: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra," by Maria Newman, will be performed by pianist Delores Stevens and the Kansas University Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Lied Center.

"A Concert for the Pre-millennium" is the theme for the concert, which will be conducted by Brian Priestman, professor and director of orchestral activities at KU.

Newman's five-part composition, completed in 1999 by the 37-year-old composer, has movements titled "Gathering at the Town Square," "Soliloquy," "The Chautauqua Acrobats," "Slim Jim: Sleight of Hand" and "Catching the Union Pacific."

In addition to the premiere, the Symphony Orchestra will play:

  • "Sonata Piane forte," a 1599 work by Giovanni Gabrieli, which Priestman describes as "one of the most famous of all the countless music written for two contrasting groups of players."

"It was Gabrieli's initiative to write down 'piano and forte' into his score that makes it unique," Priestman said. "I am staging it to fit the stage and possibilities of the Lied Center, with an aim of making contrasting timbres and for the two choirs to remain distinct even when they are playing together."

  • "Symphony No. 1 in C," Ludwig van Beethoven's first piece written in the ensemble style, finished in 1799.

"Imagine this young foreigner starting with a discord and not getting to his main key for several measures," he said. "And what about all that playing about with a scale at the beginning of the finale, not to speak of the third movement, a raucous and vertiginously rapid minuet, but undanceable. Nobody really realized what they had on their hands. It was new music to all."

  • "Symphony No. 1," an 1899 work by Jan Sibelius, first performed in April of that year. Sibelius' feeling for individuality of color and his mastery of orchestral sound belie the fact that he was only 33 years old, but already a mature and creative personality, Priestman said.

Stevens, director of piano studies at California State University at Dominguez Hills and director of chamber music at Mount St. Mary's College, graduated from KU with a bachelor's degree in fine arts in 1952.

She has performed more than 500 concerts in Europe, Asia and the United States as a soloist and as a member of various chamber music ensembles. She recently appeared as a soloist in the Czech Republic, Spain and Japan, and just returned from Australia, where she performed during the International Peace Conference near Brisbane.

Stevens has been recorded on 10 labels and has commissioned new works in the United States and abroad, which resulted in a Performer's Award from the National Association of Composers USA.

Newman, a violin-viola soloist and youngest daughter of nine-time Academy Award-winning composer-conductor Alfred Newman, received her formal training at the Eastman School of Music and Yale University. She completed a two-year position as composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra, and is beginning her fourth season as composer-in-residence with the Icicle Creek Music Center in Leavenworth, Wash.

Newman is a founding member of Viklarbo Chamber Ensemble, with whom she tours and presents composition forums and master classes. She has received numerous awards, including five consecutive ASCAP Awards and two 1994 Composers Guild Awards.

Tickets are available at the Lied Center Box Office, 864-ARTS; Murphy Hall Box Office, 864-3982; and Student Union Activities Box Office, 864-3477.

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