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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 30, 2004

Maia Quartet Plays Beethoven, Dvorak and Bartok Feb. 13

The University of Iowa's resident string quartet, the Maia Quartet, will play music of Beethoven, Dvorak and Bartok in a free concert at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13 in Clapp Recital hall on the UI campus.

The concert will be free and open to the public. Works on the program are Beethoven's String Quartet in F major, op. 18 no. 1; Bela Bartok's String Quartet No. 1; and Antonin Dvorak's Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 51.

The Maia Quartet participates in a series of chamber music concerts on campus each year. Its members -- violinists Amy Appold and Margaret Soper Gutierrez, violist Elizabeth Oakes and cellist Hannah Holman -- are faculty in the School of Music. Additional campus performances during the current academic year will be on March 10, with bassoonist Benjamin Coelho and double bassist Volkan Orhon, and on April 25 with violist Christine Rutledge and cellist Anthony Arnone.

Soper Gutierrez explained the choice of works for the Feb. 13 concert: "We chose to play the Dvorak because -- in our opinion! -- it is one of the most beautiful of his chamber works, and to commemorate the fact that this year is the 100th anniversary of his death."

"As for the Beethoven and Bartok: sometimes it is extremely gratifying to play works from the canon of quartet literature. These two works represent some of the best writing for string quartet by two of the most highly respected composers of that genre.

"It is interesting to hear these composers back to back, because they use some of the same compositional techniques, even though they come from such different periods. Both composers were able to take simple motives and melodies and develop them in all sorts of different directions, and yet fashion a cohesive work. It is fascinating to hear that, first within the formal structure and tonality of the Classical era, and then with the freer, motivically-derived style of 100 years later."

The first of his published string quartets, Beethoven's Quartet in F major 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.

In Vienna 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.

Bartok's six string quartets are considered among the greatest contributions to the string quartet repertoire since Beethoven, and also among the most important works of the 20th century. They were spread throughout his creative life, so that they formed, in the words of Bartok's pupil Matyas Seiber, "the backbone of his whole output."

Composed in 1908, the First String Quartet is also one of the first of Bartok's works to reflect his extensive study of Hungarian folk music. The irregular rhythms and unexpected intervals of the authentic folks songs, which Bartok studied and recorded across Eastern Europe, became an important part of Bartok's own compositional style, as integrated into the textures and structures of Western European art music.

In the 1870s Dvorak received a series of annual grants from Austrian government. This support allowed him to work steadily as a composer. By the end of the decade he began to achieve international success, largely through works that were notable for their use of national or folk elements. In 1878 he received a commission to write a string quartet, with a specific request for strong Slavonic features.

As a result the Quartet in E-flat major, written to satisfy the commission, represents the peak of Dvorak's nationalist style. Dvorak concentrated on symmetrical, folk-like themes in the quartet, including elements of the polka in the first movement, a characteristic Slavonic elegy known as the "dumka" in the second and a fast dance type known as the "skoana" in the fourth.

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 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 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 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 <ur-acr@uiowa.edu>.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072, peter-alexander@uiowa.edu.

PHOTOS are available at http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa/photos.html.