By Melissa Mitchell
In January and February, the UI School of Music is celebrating the birthdays of two of music history's most enduring composers -- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Schubert.
First to be feted will be Mozart, whose musical genius will be recognized on Jan. 27 -- the actual date of his birth, in 1756, in Austria -- during a free concert at 8 p.m. in Smith Hall's recital hall. The program will include performances of Mozart's Overture to "The Marriage of Figaro"; Symphony No. 29 in A major; "Wind Serenade"; and "Solemn Vespers," K 339.
Performing ensembles will include the UI Chorale, conducted by Fred Stoltzfus; UI Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Donald Schleicher; and UI Symphonic Winds, conducted by James F. Keene.
The biggest party, however, is reserved for Schubert, whose birth in Austria 200 years ago on Jan. 31 is being observed the world over this year. At the UI, the occasion will be marked with two separate concert series.
The first, which includes free performances at 8 p.m. on Jan. 28, 30, 31 and Feb. 2 in Smith Hall, is the culmination of accompaniment professor John Wustman's seven-year effort, in which he and dozens of his students have presented every song ever written by Schubert -- more than 600 in all.
Since 1990, Wustman and a changing cast of students have methodically worked their way through Schubert's vast repertoire of songs -- "piece by piece, note by note," Wustman said. By the time the bicentennial celebration is complete, they will have performed 35 recitals on campus, as well as 241 on the road -- in locales "as far north as Minnesota, as far south as Florida, as far west as Nebraska and as far east as New Hampshire."
The final performances are actually encore presentations, which will feature performances by 27 returning School of Music alumni, including award-winning baritone Nathan Gunn, who currently sings with New York's Metropolitan Opera.
After devoting the past seven years of his professional life to Schubert's music, Wustman said he is "ready for it to be finished, though I'm not tired of it at all." Looking back over the experience, he pronounced it "all wonderful ... extremely worthwhile, educational and valuable."
"I learned a lot about myself and other people, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world," he said. "One thing I learned is that I don't give opinions of things I don't know about anymore." Wustman explained that when he initially embarked on the project, he encountered many a singer or musicologist who ventured the opinion that many of Schubert's song cycles weren't "worthwhile."
Now, at least, Wustman said, he can speak as somewhat of an authority when he offers his opinon on Schubert's voluminous song catalog. "I know them all," he said. "And while my opinion of them is still just my opinion, it is a damned educated one!"
The UI's bicentennial tribute to Schubert will continue through February with a second set of concerts, which will feature mostly instrumental compositions. Peformers will include faculty members and students from nearly every department in the music school.
The chamber concerts are scheduled Feb. 6, 7, 26 and 28 at 8 p.m. in Foellinger Great Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets -- $5 for the public, $4 for senior citizens and $2 for students -- are available at the Krannert Center ticket office, 333-6280. Also part of the series is a free faculty recital at 8 p.m. Feb. 18 in Smith Hall, featuring Sherban Lupu, violin, and guest artist Gerald Rizzer, piano.