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Release: Sept. 28, 2001

Maia Quartet opens their concert season Oct. 12 with music in remembrance of tragedy

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Maia Quartet, string quartet-in-residence at the University of Iowa School of Music, will include a musical memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 attack when they open their concert season, at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The quartet had selected a program for the concert, but after Sept. 11 they quickly decided to make a change, substituting the Cavatina movement from Beethoven String Quartet in B-flat, op. 130, for one portion of the planned concert.

The members of the quartet -- Amy Kuhlmann Appold and Timothy Shiu, violins; Elizabeth Oakes, viola; and Amos Yang, cello -- made the following statement about the program change: "We felt that it would be fitting, a month after the terrible events of Sept. 11, to offer a work in remembrance of the thousands who tragically lost their lives that day. It is our hope that the deep humanity and profound spirituality of Beethoven's Cavatina may help give voice, where words fail us, to the enormity of our loss."

Other works that will remain on the program will be the Quartet in D Major, op. 20 no. 4 of Franz Joseph Haydn and Bedrich Smetana's String Quartet in E Minor ("From My Life"). The performance of Smetana's Quartet is presented in conjunction with the performance of Smetana's "Vltava" (the Moldau) from "Ma Vlast" (My country) by the Philadelphia Orchestra in Hancher Auditorium Oct. 5. In preparation for that performance, members of the Maia Quartet presented "My Life: An Exploration of the Life and Cultural Identity of Czech Composer Bedrich Smetana" at the UI International Center Oct. 2.

At the end of his life, Beethoven wrote a series of string quartets that are regarded as one of the greatest sets of creative work in European history. They were highly original, complex, deeply personal and expressive, and they have been a great source of inspiration for composers, string players and audience members alike. The Quartet in B-flat consists of seven movements that span a wide range of emotional expression. The "Cavatina" (little song) movement, which represents the expressive peak of the quartet, was once described by Beethoven as "the crowning achievement of (his) quartet writing."

Joseph Haydn has been affectionately called "the father of the string quartet." He certainly deserves the title, having written more than 80 quartets over his lifetime, in the process transforming the genre from a lightweight entertainment piece, often called a divertimento, into a serious piece of concert music.

One of the crucial turning points took place during the years 1768-72, when the young composer wrote three important sets of six quartets each, later published as op. 9, 17 and 20. These are the first works in which the string quartet emerged as a distinct form, and opp. 20 quartets are particularly considered among Haydn's major works. Described by Haydn scholar Jens Peter Larsen as "a demonstration of newly realized possibility," these quartets stand above their predecessors in many ways: each work is highly individual; they make use of the possibilities of the quartet texture; and they have distinct, strongly characterized melodies, highly expressive slow movements and rhythmically vigorous quick movements.

One of the first explicitly national composers, Bedrich Smetana created the Czech national opera in Prague in the 1860s. His health declined, however, and by 1874, at the age of 50, he was totally deaf. He resigned from the theater and devoted his life to composition, writing some of his best known works in the remaining decade of his life. These included the cycle of tone poems "Ma Vlast" (My country), the works for which he is best known

He also wrote two string quartets, both titled "Aus meinem Leben" (From my life). The First Quartet in E minor was written about 1876 and, according to the composer's program, portrayed specific episodes of his life: "the romantic tendency and unsatisfied yearnings" of his early life, in the first movement; the lighter side of his youth, in a charming polka; "the bliss of my first love for my wife," in a sustained, lyrical slow movement; and "the discovery how to treat the national material in music," in the lively finale. But also reflected in the finale is "the beginning of my deafness, a glimpse into the melancholy future," depicted quite literally with a sustained high E over repeated notes in the lower instrument.

The Maia Quartet performs a series of concert on the UI campus each year. Other concerts in the current season will be held in Clapp Recital Hall at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8 and Wednesday, April 17. They will also be featured on the UI Museum of Art's "Breath of Art" performance series, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, and in a variety of collaborative performances with their UI faculty colleagues -- both individually and as a quartet.

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. 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 Governors 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 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 and Sciences.

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>.