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Release: Nov. 22, 2000

Cellist Yang Goes Solo For A Recital Of Music By Bach And Britten

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Cellist Amos Yang will take the stage alone for a performance of unaccompanied works by J.S. Bach and Benjamin Britten at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7 in Clapp Recital Hall on the University of Iowa campus.

A member of the Maia String Quartet and a faculty member at the UI School of Music, Yang is also an accomplished solo performer. The Dec. 7 performance -- Yang’s second unaccompanied recital on the UI campus -- will be free and open to the public.

"Last year’s performances of the Kodaly Solo Sonata and Bach’s Third Solo Suite encouraged me to try a similar solo project this year," Yang said of his performance last February.
"I love the challenge of preparing a solo recital, where I’m responsible for everything at all times, and the freedom and spontaneity it affords."

Yang has several other solo appearances coming up -- although none of them are unaccompanied. On Feb. 7 he will join the University Symphony and conductor William LaRue Jones for a performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, and on March 19 he will perform a duo recital with pianist Uriel Tsachor.

For his Dec. 7 solo recital, Yang will perform two works: Britten’s Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello, op. 72, and Bach’s Suite No. 6 in D major for Solo Cello, BWV 1012.

"These are two true pillars of the solo cello literature that aren’t heard often enough," Yang said. "Bach’s D major Suite is neglected because of its difficult register -- it was written originally for a five-string instrument, which creates problems on the normal modern cello. And the Britten is overlooked just because of its general unfamiliarity."

Bach’s six suites for solo cello, composed around 1720, are the earliest works to earn a permanent place in the virtuoso cello repertoire. They were written while Bach was music director at the court of Prince Leopold of Coethen. A number of Bach’s greatest instrumental works were written about the same time, including the sonatas and partitas for solo violin and the Brandenburg Concertos.

In Bach’s time there was already a long tradition of unaccompanied pieces for stringed instruments, but Bach far surpassed his predecessors. His works not only show an intimate understanding of the performance techniques and possibilities of each instrument, but they also maintain a high level of musical interest, while covering a wide range of rhythmic styles and expressive possibilities -- qualities that have made the solo suites an essential part of any cellist’s education.

After Bach, unaccompanied works for stringed instruments disappeared from the concert scene, as composers and audiences of the 19th-century seemed to prefer richer colors and more powerful sounds than single instruments could provide. This was the time when orchestras grew from chamber ensembles to the modern symphony, with its powerful wind and brass sections.

In the early years of the 20th century, however, composers searching for striking and original sounds rediscovered the solo works of the Baroque era. At the same time, several outstanding performers confirmed the cello’s status as a virtuoso instrument, and performances of Bach’s works inspired several composers to write solo works for cello.

Musicologist Philip Brett explained the link between the Bach suites and Britten’s works for solo cello: "It was (cellist Mstislav) Rostropovich’s rich and romantic performance of the Bach unaccompanied suites that lay behind these works," he wrote. "Britten’s suites rely on the sort of texture that Bach adopted, in which the impression of counterpoint is gained by continuing two or three melodic ideas at different pitch levels, breaking from one to another before its aural impression has faded from the listener’s ear."

The newest member of the Maia Quartet, Yang joined the group in 1996 after playing with the Deutsche Kammerakademie (German Academy of Chamber Music) in Dusseldorf and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. He has won first prize in the Grace Vamos Cello Competition and the American String Teacher’s Association Cello Competition and was a finalist in the Pierre Fournier Cello Competition. He has performed a wide range of concertos and played chamber music with the Ying Quartet, pianist Ann Schein and violinists Perrin Yang and Earl Carlyss.

Yang holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School. He also studied at the Eastman School of Music and in London, England, under a grant from the Beebe Foundation. He attended the Tanglewood Music Festival, where he received the CD Jackson Award for outstanding contribution to the festival in 1994.

Founded in1990, 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 1999 they gave a concert at the German Embassy in Washington, in honor of the Czech Republic’s entry into NATO. 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.

For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <deborah-thumma@uiowa.edu>.