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Release: Oct. 1, 1999

Meridian Trio will debut with UI faculty/guest concert Oct. 13

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Meridian Trio, a newly formed ensemble featuring pianist Rene Lecuona of the University of Iowa School of Music faculty with violinist Davis Brooks and cellist Kurt Fowler, will give its first live performance at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The three musicians first played together last January in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where they made a CD recording of "Intimate Voices," a 1988 composition for piano, violin and cello by Craig First. That experience was so successful that they decided to present concerts together, starting with the UI appearance Oct. 13. Several other live concerts are planned for the coming year.

For its debut appearance, the Meridian Trio will play First's "Intimate Voices" and two major works from the standard piano-trio repertoire: the Trio in B-flat, D. 898, of Franz Schubert, and the Trio in E minor, op. 67, of Dmitri Shostakovich.

The concert will be free and open to the public.

Lecuona said that playing the Schubert Trio is particularly meaningful for the group.

"Many chamber music lovers have a special affection for the Schubert piano trios, and for many, these wonderful pieces have become associated with the Beaux Arts Trio. Their magical performances and recordings are inspiring and perhaps also a little daunting for musicians who follow in their formidable footsteps.

"It is with both humility and excitement that we approach the Trio in B-flat, which is one of Schubert's predominantly joyful masterpieces."

Shostakovich's Second Piano Trio was written in 1944, near the end of World War II, and its emotional content is associated with those terrible times. "Mournfulness, robustness and bitter irony each play a role in creating a work of haunting emotional power," Lecuona said.

The overall mood is established by the first movement, which opens with a melancholy theme played by the cello. The second movement is a rousing dance, with three different styles: a stamping dance; a grotesque, drunken dance; and a waltz. The serious and somber third movement leads directly into the culminating finale, which is usually interpreted as representing a Jewish dance of death.

"For me," Lecuona commented, "the last movement evokes the tragic specter of Jewish victims of Nazi Germany forced to dance by their own graves."

First teaches composition at the University of Alabama. He has previously taught composition at Northwestern University, and since 1992 he has served as the artistic director of the Chicago 20th-Century Music Ensemble. He has received many commissions and awards for his compositions, and he is currently a finalist for both the National Symphony Orchestra Commissioning Competition and the Cal/Alpert Award in Music.

"Intimate Voices" has received both an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Award and the League of Composers/ISCM Competition Award. As the title suggests, the score reflects the concept of chamber music as an intimate conversation among the instruments. According to the composers program notes, the first movement "introduces several motives that initially unfold as disparate musical ideas. Gradually these motives coalesce producing a single idea that is developed throughout the work.

"The second movement features a kind of musical dialogue between the violin and cello.

"The third movement begins with a tonal variation of the principal theme of the first movement set in a kind of 19th-century parlor music. This music accompanies a dialogue between the performers that begins with sensual overtones only to turn violent as the conversation unfolds."

Lecuona maintains an active teaching and performing schedule at the UI School of Music, including frequent collaborations with her faculty colleagues. Since joining the faculty in1990 she has appeared in more than 55 on-campus concerts. She is featured on several CD recordings, including one with double bassist Diana Gannett of chamber music by Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms. In a recent review of the CD in Bass World, Lecuona's performance on the recording was described as "magnificent."

Lecuona has given solo and chamber music recitals throughout the United States, South America and the Caribbean. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in a chamber performance in 1993. As an Artistic Ambassador for the United States, she has given concerts and master classes in Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Trinidad and Tobago. She has also performed solo recitals and given master classes at many universities in Brazil.

Brooks comes from a diverse musical background as soloist, pedagogue, orchestral musician, studio musician, concertmaster on Broadway, conductor, and chamber musician. Recently appointed associate concertmaster of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Brooks was a member of the Mostly Mozart Orchestra at Lincoln Center for 10 years, and the New York Chamber Symphony. He currently teaches violin at Butler University in Indianapolis. An active and committed chamber musician, he is currently a member of the Linden String Quartet. He is a founding member of the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, a period instrument ensemble.

Fowler teaches at Indiana State University and is principal cellist of the Terre Haute Symphony. He has performed throughout the United States and in Europe as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player. Fowler has served as principal cellist of the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra and has performed at the Aspen Music Festival, Sarasota Music Festival, and the Heidelberg Castle Festival in Germany. He is a founding member of the Timaeus Ensemble, a six-member chamber ensemble that specializes in 20th-century music, and is the cellist for the Chicago 20th-Century Music Ensemble.

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NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: Rene Lecuona is pronounced RAY-nee luh-KWO-nah.