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Release: April 6, 2001

Maia Quartet to perform UI-commissioned work April 20

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Maia String Quartet, the quartet in residence at the University of Iowa, will perform Joan Tower's "Night Fields," a work that was commissioned by the university and Hancher Auditorium, as part of a free concert at 8 p.m. Friday, April 20, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Other works on the concert will be Mozart's Quartet in D Minor, K. 421, and Beethoven's Quartet in C Major, op. 59 no. 3, known as the Third "Razumovsky" Quartet.

The concert will be the third concert on the UI campus for the 2000-2001 academic year by the Maia Quartet. The members of the 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. They are currently in their third year as the UI quartet in residence.

"Night Music" was commissioned by Hancher and the UI in collaboration with the Snowbird Institute for the Arts and Humanities. It was written for the Muir Quartet, who gave the first performance at the UI on March 1, 1994. The Maia Quartet had the opportunity of studying the quartet with the composer at the Aspen Music Festival during the summer of 1994, thus becoming only the second quartet to perform the work.

Tower wrote about "Night Fields," "The title came after the work was completed and provides an image or setting for some of the moods of the piece: a cold windy night in a wheat field lit up by a bright full moon where waves of fast-moving colors ripple over the field, occasionally settling on a patch of gold."

Mozart's D-minor Quartet is one of six the composer wrote for and dedicated to his friend and mentor, Josef Haydn. Composed 1782 through 1785, when Mozart was at the height of his fame and creative abilities, the "Haydn" quartets, as the set is known, are among Mozart's greatest works. They were, he said, "the fruits of long and laborious endeavor."

Notable for their use of counterpoint and the equality of the four parts, the six quartets show that Mozart had carefully studied Haydn's string quartets, particularly those in the Op. 33 set that Haydn said were composed "in an entirely new manner.". In this way, Mozart's works were both a gift and a homage to the older composer. One of very few chamber pieces Mozart wrote in a minor key, the D-minor Quartet shares a dramatic intensity with other works in the same key, including the D-minor Piano Concerto, the Overture to "Don Giovanni" and the uncompleted "Requiem."

Beethoven composed the three op. 59 string quartets for Count Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador to the Imperial Court in Vienna. They were written in 1806, around the same time as works in what is often called Beethoven's "heroic" style: "Kreutzer" violin Sonata, the "Appassionata" Piano Sonata, the Fifth Piano Concerto and the "Eroica" Symphony.

Beethoven's first set of string quartets, written in 1798-1800, followed the classical models of Haydn and Mozart. But with the "Razumovksy" Quartets, Beethoven entered what musicologist Joseph Kerman has called "a new artistic universe." They are much longer, more intense works that seem to stretch the expressive and sonic possibilities of the four string instruments to their limits.

It was little wonder, Kerman noted, "that in the 1800s quartet players who liked (the first set of quartets) found Op. 59 a closed book. There had never been such a quartet before." And according to one legend, a listener said to Beethoven "that he surely did not consider these works to be music," to which the composer replied, "Oh, they are not for you but for a later age."

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 Maia Quartet was founded when the four members were students at the Cleveland Institute of Music. The members were subsequently awarded fellowships at the Peabody Conservatory and the Juilliard School. They have also been awarded summer fellowships to the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and the Aspen Center for Advanced Quartet Studies, where they worked with the Emerson, Tokyo, Cleveland and American string quartets. At Juilliard they worked closely with the Juilliard Quartet and served as their teaching assistants.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts.

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>.