Two Jacobs School alumni take the stage during a free concert with the Indianapolis Symphony
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and two Indiana University Jacobs School of Music alumni return to Bloomington with an exciting free concert in the Musical Arts Center on March 2 at 3 p.m.
The concert will be a true celebration of musicians featuring two soloists who are Jacobs School alumni. Anthony Kniffen (tuba) and Ju-Fang Liu (contrabass) -- two ISO principals from sections that more often play supporting roles -- move front and center in virtuosic concertos for tuba and bass. To top it all off, Ravel's Boléro -- which features prominent solos for flute, oboe d'amore, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and snare drum -- ends the afternoon concert with the most passionate climax in music.
Mario Venzago, the ISO's music director, will lead the orchestra for the third time in Bloomington.
"It's fantastic to be returning to Bloomington for the third year in a row," Venzago said. "We love performing for the intimate community of students, professors and residents, and this year, we are bringing a very special program featuring Ju-Fang Liu and Tony Kniffen, who has done some teaching there. I want everyone to hear that these are not only amazing leaders in the orchestra, but also excellent soloists in some very interesting repertoire. I hope that our partnership with IU will nurture many more collaborations."
The program includes Maurice Ravel's Boléro, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnol, John Adams' A Short Ride in a Fast Machine, John Williams' Tuba Concerto, Eduard Tubin's Double Bass Concerto, Camille Saint- Saëns' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Movement 1 and Ottorino Respighi's "The Pines of the Appian Way" from Pines of Rome.
Presented by the IU Jacobs School of Music, the concert is free and open to the public. Tickets for the open seating performance can be secured in person in advance at the MAC box office. For more information, call 812-855-7433. The ISO and IU enjoy a close relationship, with 25 Jacobs alumni musicians currently in the orchestra's membership.
Anthony Kniffen was appointed principal tuba of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in September 1997, after serving with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra since 1989. A native of Kirkwood, Mo., he has benefited from years of encouragement and instruction from Daniel Perantoni and Harvey Phillips at the Jacobs School of Music, as well as Gene Pokorny.
Playing along with such diverse groups as folk artists The Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau in Hawaii to the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra in Indianapolis, Kniffen has also performed with the Chicago, Saint Louis, Minnesota, Cincinnati and New Mexico symphony orchestras and has toured extensively in the United States with Summit Brass and in Japan with Sierra Brass. He has won four concerto competitions and appeared as soloist with the Honolulu and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras.
Other solo appearances include regional and international tuba conferences and colleges, including the Jacobs School, where he also occasionally substitute teaches; the University of Hawaii, where he taught previously; and the University of Indianapolis, where he currently teaches. Kniffen also is the "play-along" tubist on a Hal Leonard educational project called "Essential Elements 2000." This year, Kniffen is substitute teaching at the University of Cincinnati College and Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati.
Ju-Fang Liu was born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and began her study of the bass at age nine. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees degrees from the Jacobs School of Music, where she studied with Bruce Bransby and Lawrence Hurst. Prior to joining the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in 2003, she was principal contrabass with the New World Symphony in Florida. She has also been a member of orchestras in Kansas City, Owensboro and Evansville, performed in summer festivals at Aspen, Marlboro and Tanglewood, and been heard as soloist with the Louisville and New World orchestras.
Mario Venzago has served as music director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra since 2002. He has held the positions of principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, as well as music director of the Basel Symphony Orchestra, the Basque Euskadi National Orchestra in Spain, the Graz Opera House, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie in Frankfurt/Bremen and the Heidelberg Opera. He was named conductor laureate of the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra in 2006.
A regular visitor to Europe's leading orchestras and opera houses, Venzago's distinguished conducting career includes engagements with the Berlin PO, the Komische Oper, Leipzig Gewandhaus and MDR Leipzig, Munich PO and Munich Bavarian Radio, and the Dresden PO. He has also worked with the London Philharmonic, City of Birmingham SO, Northern Sinfonia, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Strasbourg PO, Tonhalle Orchestra, Zurich, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Vienna Symphony and with the NHK Symphony in Tokyo. He has also conducted, among other prestigious festivals, the Salzburg Festival and the Lucerne Festival.
In North America, Venzago has appeared with the Boston Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony, the New Jersey Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Ottawa and the Baltimore Symphony, an orchestra with which he has enjoyed a close relationship, returning regularly. He served as artistic director of the Baltimore Symphony's Summer Music Fest and returns to guest conduct in the 2008-2009 season.
Venzago is known for his commitment to the repertoire of the mid 19th century -- Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann are two composers for whom he has a special affinity -- the Second Viennese school, and also to more contemporary scores, including a very active approach to new commissions.
Venzago's varied discography has earned him several major awards, including the Diapason d'or, the Grand Prix du Disque on two occasions, and the Edison Prize. With the Basel Symphony, he has recorded for Novalis the complete symphonic works of Schumann, Othmar Schoeck's opera Penthesiliea for Pan Classics and Venus (Musikszene Schweiz), and, on the Col legno label, symphonic works of Luigi Nono. His latest CDs include works by Sofia Gubaidulina, recorded on the Bis label with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, which received a double five-star rating from BBC Music Magazine, and, released this summer on the Claves label with the MDR Leipzig Orchestra and chorus, a collection of Schoeck's choral works, which received the Diapason d'or. Future recording projects with MDR and Gothenburg include choral/orchestral works of Schumann, the Anton Bruckner symphonies and Swedish composers.
In the forthcoming season, Venzago will appear as guest conductor with the Melbourne SO, São Paulo State Symphony, MDR Leipzig, Bremer PO, Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Finnish RSO, Orchestre Chambre de Lausanne, Basel SO and Basel Opera, with which he will conduct Schoeke's Penthesilea.