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Release: March 24, 2000

Maia String Quartet and pianist Rene Lecuona will present chamber music concert April 9

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Maia String Quartet, a resident faculty ensemble at the University of Iowa School of Music, will be joined by two of their faculty colleagues, violist Christine Rutledge and pianist Rene Lecuona, for a concert of chamber music by Mozart, Brahms and Ravel, at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 9 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The members of the Maia String Quartet -- Amy Kuhlmann Appold and Timothy Shiu, violins; Elizabeth Oakes, viola; and Amos Yang, cello -- are visiting assistant professors at the UI School of Music. The April 9 concert is the last in a series of three concerts by the Maia Quartet on campus during the 1999-2000 academic year.

With Rutledge, the quartet will play Mozart's String Quintet in E-flat major, K.614; Lecuona and members of the quartet will perform the Piano Quartet in C minor, op. 60, of Johannes Brahms; and the Maia Quartet will close the program with the String Quartet of Maurice Ravel.

The concert will be free and open to the public.

During the 10 years he lived in Vienna, from 1781 until his premature death in 1791, Mozart wrote many works that are regarded as some of the greatest achievements of European music. Among the best known are a series of great operas, several piano concertos written for his own performances, his last three symphonies, and his uncompleted "Requiem." He also wrote chamber music that ranks with the greatest works of the Classical era, including a series of six string quartets dedicated to Joseph Haydn, and several works that went beyond the standard instrumental groups.

Among these are two pairs of string quintets, scored for the unusual combination of string quartet plus a second viola -- two in 1787, in C major and G minor, and then two more in the last year of his life, one in D major, and his last quintet in E-flat major. In "The Mozart Compendium," scholar A. Hyatt King wrote that "these splendid last quintets can be seen as the crown of a continuum unique in Mozart's music of any type. . . . However great the best of the quartets, it is the quintets in which Mozart towers above all others as a profound innovator in this kind of chamber music."

Another unusual instrumental grouping pioneered by Mozart was the quartet for piano and strings. In the 19th century this ensemble was superseded by the more sonorous quintet for piano with string quartet, but Brahms, who was very conscious of his own Classical heritage, wrote three piano quartets, a pair of them in G minor and A minor, opp. 25 and 26, in 1861-61, and the Third Piano Quartet in C minor, op. 60, completed in 1875.

Like many of Brahms' works, the Piano Quartet in C minor went through several versions and was finally the fruit of long and painstaking effort. The completed Quartet was in fact a thorough re-composition of a Quartet in C-sharp minor that he had begun 20 years earlier. Brahms even tried out several intermediate versions of the quartet, in 1856 and again in 1868. Apparently he was not satisfied with either of these works, since both have disappeared without a trace.

Ravel wrote his String Quartet in 1902-03, during an awkward period in his career. He had left the Paris Conservatory in 1895, with a commitment to music as a career but few solid accomplishments. His highly original style of composition did not fit well with the academic requirements of the Conservatory, but Ravel eventually found a sympathetic teacher in Gabriel Faure and attended his courses as an auditor through 1903.

Ravel dedicated his Quartet to Faure, but most musicians believe that the strongest influence on the work was Debussy, whose String Quartet was composed a decade earlier, in 1893. Indeed, Ravel's Quartet shares several features with that of Debussy, including features of harmony, form, and even some thematic elements. Ravel exceeded Debussy in one area, however, and that is the richness of instrumental color, achieved with multiple stops -- more than one note on each instrument -- themes written in octaves, arpeggios, harmonics and pizzicato.

Founded in 1990, the Maia Quartet has established itself nationally with performances in major concert halls including Alice Tully Hall in New York, the Kennedy Center Terrace Theatre in Washington, D.C., and Harris Hall at the Aspen Music Festival. In recent years they have collaborated with other leading chamber musicians around the world, and they have had summer teaching engagements at the Interlochen Arts Academy, the Austin Chamber Music Festival, the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and the Cedar Rapids Symphony School. Prior to coming to Iowa, they also taught on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory.

Rutledge joined the UI faculty in 1998. She has appeared as soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player throughout the United States and abroad. She performs as a member of the Fontana Chamber Music Festival ensemble. Her performances and recordings with the Notre Dame String Trio have earned glowing reviews from The Strad, Fanfare and other music publications. Her solo performances have included those before her professional peers at the 23rd International Viola Congress in Bloomington, Ind., and the 24th Congress in Marchneukirchen, Germany. She has performed the standard viola repertoire, her own transcriptions of Baroque works, several lesser known works for viola, and new works that were written specifically for her.

Lecuona maintains an active teaching and performing schedule at the UI School of Music, including frequent collaborations with her faculty colleagues. Since joining the faculty in1990 she has appeared in more than 55 on-campus concerts. She is featured on several CD recordings, including one with double bassist Diana Gannett of chamber music by Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms. In a recent review of the CD in Bass World, Lecuona's performance on the recording was described as "magnificent." She has given solo and chamber music recitals throughout the United States, South America and the Caribbean. As an Artistic Ambassador for the United States, she has given concerts and master classes in Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago. She has also performed solo recitals and given master classes at many universities in Brazil.

For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiowacr on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/. The Maia Quartet is on the web at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/SOMfest5.html.

NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: Rene Lecuona is pronounced RAIN-ee leh-QUO-nah.