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Release: Immediate

Grammy-winning Emerson Quartet presents two all-Beethoven concerts Sept. 14 & 16

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Emerson String Quartet, whose seven-CD "Beethoven Cycle" won the 1998 Grammy Award for "Best Chamber Music Performance," will present two all-Beethoven concerts at the University of Iowa -- 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, Sept. 14 and 16, in Clapp Recital Hall.

The concerts, presented as part of Hancher Auditorium's 1998-99 chamber music programming, will be accompanied by a free discussion-with-music about Beethoven's late quartets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15 in the Iowa City Public Library. The discussion, featuring musicologist Ben Korstvedt and the Emerson String Quartet, will be telecast live on the library's cable channel.

The audience at each of the concerts will be invited to remain in the hall for a post-performance discussion with the musicians, moderated by Hancher assistant director Judith Hurtig, secretary of the executive board of Chamber Music America.

On Sept. 14 the Emerson String Quartet -- violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton and cellist David Finckel -- will perform Beethoven's Quartet in A Major, op. 18, no. 5; the Quartet in F Minor, op. 95; and the Quartet in C-sharp Minor, op. 131.

The Sept 16 program is the Quartet in A Minor, op. 132; and the Quartet in C Major, op. 59, no. 3.

Fortune magazine reviewer Ed Brown greeted the Emerson's "Beethoven Cycle" with these words: "With dozens of recordings of Beethoven's string quartets already on the market, even the most ardent classical music fan has to wonder: Do we really need another collection of these works? Well, we do if the recording is from the Emerson String Quartet, arguably the world's best group of chamber musicians."

Duncan Druce wrote in England's Gramophone magazine, "The Emersons give us playing of exceptional technical accomplishment and an unusually wide expressive range. They continually offer new insights into some endlessly enthralling music. Do hear them."

The Beethoven set has been regarded as the pinnacle of the Emerson String Quartet's stellar two-decade career. The members of the quartet consider their current playing of the Beethoven quartets as an expression of mature human experience, as well as musical skill. "All of us have gone through a lot of experiences," Drucker says. "We've become fathers, we've lost loved ones, and every bit of this goes into the total of what you bring to the music."

But they also recognize that their approach to Beethoven is extreme in their attempt to convey Beethoven's intense and revolutionary ideas. "I know our recordings are challenging," Dutton says. "None are going to be safe for the listener. Because I think we looked hard at what Beethoven wanted, to the point where we really pushed the envelope. I haven't heard any other quartet recording go this far, to such extremes . . . but that's what Beethoven was about."

The 1998 Grammy Award was the Emerson's third, and they have also won Gramophone's Record of the Year Award -- the first chamber music ensemble ever to win the magazine's top honor.

Their artistry has been the subject of two award-winning films. Their schedule of more than 100 concerts each season takes them to the world's musical capitals and has included benefit concerts to fight AIDS, world hunger and children's diseases.

Formed during the U.S. bicentennial, the quartet took its name from the great American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Corporate sponsor for the two Clapp Hall concerts is Meacham Travel Service through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Ben Korstvedt, who will join the quartet in the Sept. 15 discussion of Beethoven's late quartets at the Iowa City Public Library, has written extensively on the music of Anton Bruckner, and he is now completing a monograph on Bruckner's Eighth Symphony for Cambridge University Press. He is working on a Bruckner book through a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The discussion is free and no tickets are required.

The late quartets capture the anguish of Beethoven, deaf and near death. "These pieces are like the keys to the spiritual kingdom," Dutton suggests. "I think when he was very sick he probably did get out of his body and travel away from his earthly being." Setzer adds, "Beethoven was at the end of his life, standing on the edge of a cliff . . . an incredible genius filled with emotion and sadness, teetering on the edge of madness."

Tickets for each all-Beethoven concert by the Emerson String Quartet are $25 ($20 for UI students and senior citizens, and half price for audience members 17 and younger) from the Hancher Auditorium box office.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.