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Release: Sept. 15, 2000

Maia String Quartet will play Beethoven, Shostakovich and Dvorak on free concert Sept. 29

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Maia String Quartet, the resident string quartet at the University of Iowa School of Music, will open its season of concerts on the UI campus for the 2000-2001 academic year at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29 in Clapp Recital Hall.

The program of the free concert comprises three works: Beethoven’s String Quartet in C minor, op. 18 no. 4; Dmitri Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 7 in F-sharp minor, op. 108; and Antonin Dvorak’s "American" String Quartet in F major, op. 96.

In conjunction with the performance of the Shostakovich quartet, the Maia String Quartet and Russian musician Oleg Timofeyev will present an introduction to the music of Shostakovich at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11 in the UI International Center Lounge.

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. This is their third year as UI quartet in residence.

Beethoven’s Quartet in C minor was written around 1798 as part of a group of six quartets that were published in 1801 as op. 18. Beethoven had moved to Vienna, then the capital of the German-speaking musical world, from the relatively provincial city of Bonn in 1792. His idol Mozart had died only the previous year, and he hoped, in the words of an aristocratic patron, to "receive the spirit of Mozart from the hands of Haydn."

Beethoven studied composition with Haydn, who had perfected the string quartet form, but he chafed under the older man’s teaching, and he soon began to assert his own style. Even after he broke free of Haydn’s teaching he took a long time to write his first quartets, knowing they would attract attention and wanting to be certain they would stand up against the works of his former teacher. In fact, these quartets are considered among the first great works of the young Beethoven, combining the classical style and structure of Haydn and Mozart with his own strong, independent identity. The C minor quartet is the stormiest of the set, sharing the mood of his Fifth Symphony, also in C minor.

Shostakovich wrote 15 string quartets, all but one of them between the years of 1944, near the end of World War II, and 1974, the year before the composer's death. Like much of the music written in the last 30 years of Shostakovich's life, they are regarded as highly personal works, conforming outwardly to the expectations of the Soviet authorities but also containing deeply felt expressions of private feelings.

The Seventh Quartet was written in 1960, in memory of the composer’s wife, who had died in 1954. It is the composer’s shortest string quartet and has an underlying melancholy mood

hroughout. It is written in three movements, but their close thematic links create the impression of a single, varied movement.

Dvorak spent the summer of 1893 in the tiny Czech-American community of Spillville, Iowa. He was taking summer vacation from his position as director of the American Conservatory in New York and had just completed his most famous work, the "New World" Symphony, which was premiered the following winter by the New York Philharmonic.

The summer was a relaxing and idyllic time for the composer, who enjoyed wandering through the quiet Iowa countryside and along the Turkey River outside Spillville. Recapturing the pleasure he had at home visiting the Czech countryside, Dvorak wrote two of his most charming and beautiful pieces of chamber music in Spillville, a string quartet and a string quintet, both known by the name "American."

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 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.

The quartet has gained wide recognition for its educational outreach activities. It has participated in a three-year project in partnership with the Aspen Music Festival under a grant from the Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Foundation aimed at building adult audiences. The members of the quartet have shared their love of music with children under the auspices of Young Audiences, Inc., and the Midori Foundation, and they have given performances for families with children at Lincoln Center and the U.N. School in New York.

The concert and discussion by the Maia Quartet are part of "Russian Unorthodox," a series of concerts and other events at the UI focusing on music from Russia from the late 19th through the late 20th centuries. "Russian Unorthodox" will include a Festival of Contemporary Russian Music, presented by the UI Center for New Music Sept. 28-Oct. 1; performances of Shostakovich string quartets by the Emerson Quartet at 8 p.m. Friday Oct. 20 and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct 22 in Clapp Recital Hall; and a discussion of the Shostakovich quartets with the Emerson Quartet at noon Sunday, Oct. 22 in the UI Museum of Art.

Additional concerts in the 2000-2001 series of concerts by the Maia Quartet will be at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23 and 8 p.m. Friday, April 20. All performances will be in Clapp Recital Hall and will be free and open to the public.

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>.