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Release: February 26, 1999

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Amy Appold, first violinist of the Maia String Quartet, may be reached by e-mail at <>.)

UI string quartet in residence concludes its 1998-99 performance series with concert March 11

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Maia String Quartet, the quartet in residence at the University of Iowa School of Music, will present its final concert on the UI campus for the 1998-99 academic year at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 11 in Clapp Recital Hall.

The program comprises three works: Six Bagatelles, op. 9, by Anton Webern, the Fourth String Quartet of Bela Bartok, and Beethoven's String Quartet in F major, op. 59 no 1, known as the First "Razumovsky" Quartet.

The concert by the Maia String Quartet will be free and open to the public.

The members of the Maia String 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 were selected for the UI residency by members of the string faculty at the School of Music. The Maia Quartet is also quartet-in-residence with the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra of Lafayette, La., serving as principal string players in the orchestra.

The quartet opened their 1998-99 concert series at the UI on Sept. 27 and played a second concert on Dec. 4. In addition to the free concerts in Clapp Recital Hall, each UI residence period includes teaching activities in the School of Music and outreach activities arranged through the UI Arts Share program.

Anton Webern, together with Alban Berg and their teacher, Arnold Schoenberg, is considered part of the "New Viennese" school that pioneered the early 20th-century techniques of musical composition without tonality. Of the three, it is Webern who made the most consistent use of the 12-tone serial techniques and who wrote the most concentrated works, in which each note and gesture seems to have great significance.

Even for Webern, the Six Bagatelles are unusually brief. Five of the movements take less than a minute each. Webern himself said they were "very short pieces, perhaps the shortest there have been in music up to now. . . . I had the feeling that once the 12 notes had run out, the piece was over."

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."

Bartok wrote his Fourth Quartet between July and September of 1928, shortly after he had returned home to Budapest from his first American tour. In it he explores a wide range of instrumental effects, including glissando (slides), pizzicato (plucked notes), sordino (mutes), ponticello (playing very close to the bridge) and col legno (rapping the string with the wood of the bow). Bartok even invented a special type of pizzicato, now known as "Bartok pizzicato," in which the string is plucked vertically and snaps back against the fingerboard with a loud crack.

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: the "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 hearer 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."

The Maia Quartet was founded in 1990, 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 its teaching assistants.

The quartet has played concerts at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, for the "Music the Great Hall" series in Baltimore, at the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center and as visiting artists at Harris Hall of the Aspen Music Festival. Their collaborations with leading chamber musicians have included performances with flutist Samuel Baron and violist Michael Tree of the Guarneri Quartet.

The Maia Quartet is recognized for its educational outreach activities. Their frequent invitations for short-term educational residencies have included engagements with Chamber Music Northwest, the Austin (Tex.) Chamber Music Center, the Music Associates of Aspen and the city of Katsuyama, Japan. Performances for children have included a family concert at Lincoln Center on the Metropolitan Opera's "Growing Up with Opera and Friends" series and appearances for ArtsExcel, Young Audiences, Inc. and the Midori Foundation.

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