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Release: Jan. 11, 2002

Trio of UI faculty and guests will perform Schubert and Dvorak Jan. 22

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Cellist Amos Yang has performed at the University of Iowa as a member of the Maia String Quartet, as a concerto soloist with the University Symphony and as a solo recitalist. He will add to that list when he performs in a piano trio with two guest artists -- his wife, violinist Alicia Yang, and an old acquaintance, pianist Melvin Chen -- at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

They will perform two of the major 19th-century works for piano trio: the Trio in B-flat major, D. 898, of Franz Schubert, and the Trio in F minor, op. 65, of Antonin Dvorak. The performance will be free and open to the public.

Chen brings an unusual dimension to the trio. A multi-talented performer, he has studied and played professionally as both violinist and pianist. He holds a double master's degree from the Juilliard School in piano and violin, and a doctorate in chemistry from Harvard University. At Yale, he performed as a piano soloist with the Yale Symphony after winning the William Waite concerto competition as a freshman, and later won the competition again to appear with the orchestra as a violin soloist.

"Melvin Chen is an interesting story by himself," Yang says. "He is mainly a pianist right now, but he and I have performed before as a duo when he was playing the violin. He is clearly some sort of genius with the ability to excel on both instruments at Juilliard and Yale -- and at Harvard in chemistry!"

During the final three years of his life -- 1825-28 -- Schubert's health and finances declined steadily, yet during this time he produced a string of works that are considered some of the greatest pieces of the early Romantic era, demonstrating his mastery of instrumental as well as vocal music. Among those works were two spacious piano trios, in B-flat and E-flat, composed in the autumn of 1827. Although written around the same time as the gloomy song cycle "Die Winterreise" (The Winter's Journey), both piano trios are cheerful, optimistic works.

Like several of his most notable late works, the Trio in B-flat is leisurely in its pacing and expansive in length. The first movement features remarkably fluid textures, with the strings now playing in unison, now engaged in conversational interplay, while piano accompaniments invariably include thematic elements.

In the 1870s Dvorak began to achieve international success, largely through the publication of his works in Berlin. However, this was a time of increasing tensions between Czechs and the German-speaking Austrians, and Dvorak found himself under pressure to abandon his national Czech identity. Consequently Dvorak was faced in the 1880s with a difficult personal and artistic choice between loyalty to his country and popular and economic success as a composer.

Some historians believe that this pressure led to Dvorak's adopting a more neutral musical language, more dramatic and dark but less permeated by a cheerful national tone. Among his chamber music, that development reached a peak in the dramatic expressiveness of the Piano Trio in F minor, which is considered unique among Dvorak's works.

An avid chamber musician, Chen has performed with Ida Kavafian, David Shifrin, Pamela Frank and members of the St. Lawrence, Mendelssohn, Borromeo, and Arditti quartets. He was selected as a member of Chamber Music Society Two of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, where he appeared in performances and educational programs for two seasons.

Chen has been heard both in recital and in chamber music appearances at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Boston's Jordan Hall and other venues in the United States, Canada and Asia. He is a performer on Wynton Marsalis' series on music education, "Marsalis on Music," and can also be heard on Discover, Nices, and KBS compact discs with violinist Juliette Kang.

A member of the Oregon Symphony, Alicia Yang was born in Baltimore, where she began violin studies at the age of four. She leads an active and varied concert career. In addition to performing chamber music, she was a featured soloist with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra in their "Mostly Mozart" program, and in the current season she will appear with the Ottumwa Symphony performing the Brahms Violin Concerto.

She has released two recordings of 20th-century string quartets for the Opus One label. International appearances include chamber music and orchestral concerts in Spain and Italy while a member of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Castilla y Leon. On the Baroque violin, she has appeared with the Smithsonian Chamber Players, the Washington Bach Consort, and at the Boston Early Music Festival. At the UI, she has been a doctoral candidate and recipient of the Iowa Performance Fellowship and the Pelzer Foundation Fellowship. She has taught violin at the Interlochen Center for the Arts and at the Preucil School of Music.

The newest member of the Maia Quartet, Amos 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.

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>.