CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Jan. 28, 2000
Maia Quartet to play works by Dvorak, Britten, Schumann
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Maia String Quartet from the University
of Iowa School of Music will play works by Antonin Dvorak, Benjamin Britten
and Robert Schumann in a free concert at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11 in Clapp Recital
Hall on the UI campus.
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. The Feb. 11
concert is the second in a series of three concerts they will present on campus
during the current academic year. The final concert of the series will be
at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 9 in Clapp Recital Hall.
Members of the quartet will also present solo recitals
in Clapp Hall during the current semester: Yang at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20,
and Appold with pianist Ksenia Nosikova at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 26.
Although Dvorak, Britten and Schumann are among the most
esteemed and well known classical composers, the three works selected by the
Maia Quartet for the Feb. 11 program are among the less familiar works of
the quartet repertoire. They will play selections from Dvorak's "Cypresses,"
Britten's String Quartet No. 2 in C major, and Schumann's String Quartet in
A major, op. 41 no. 3.
Less familiar than Dvorak's numbered string quartets,
the cycle "Cypresses" was based on a group of songs the composer wrote to
console himself in 1865 when, as a young musician, he was rejected in love
by one of his piano students. The 18 songs were never published as a group,
although many of them did show up in later song collections.
In 1887, however, Dvorak arranged 12 of the songs for
string quartet. The change of medium from voice to string quartet is quite
unusual, and the "Cypresses" cycle was not published until 1921. Today it
is regarded as one of Dvorak's most characteristic and successful works.
The Maia Quartet will play five of the 12 pieces in the
original string quartet cycle. These pieces still carry the original song
titles: "I know that on my love to Thee," "Death reigns in many a human breast,"
"The old letter in my book," "Thou only dear one, but for Thee," and "Never
will love lead us to that glad goal."
Britten is best known for his operas and other vocal works
in which he displayed a remarkable ability to set English texts with clarity,
rhythmic subtlety and expressivity. However, he also wrote a number of successful
instrumental compositions, in addition to the instrumental portions of his
operatic and choral works. These include the ever popular "Young Persons Guide
to the Orchestra," symphonies, concertos for piano, violin and cello, and
four string quartets.
Since the first of the string quartets was not numbered,
the Second Quartet is in fact the third in order of composition. It was written
in 1945 at an important juncture in Britten's life. His
large-scale opera "Peter Grimes" had been premiered in London on June 7, providing
Britten with his first great success, and the composer was about to embark
on an ambitious project, writing and producing chamber operas to be toured
throughout England. From this time on, opera and other vocal works were to
be the primary focus of his career.
Before that happened, however, Britten completed his Second
String Quartet. In a tribute to the 17th-century English composer Henry Purcell,
the quartet culminates in a "Chacony" -- a final movement that is made up
of variations on a repeating bass theme. This compositional form, common in
Purcell's time, is used by Britten to create a tour-de-force of variation
After intermission, the second half of the program will
be devoted to a single Romantic work, the String Quartet in A major, op. 41
no. 3, of Robert Schumann. The product of a period when Schumann concentrated
on chamber music, the set of three quartets Op. 41 was composed in 1842. In
the same years, Schumann also composed a piano quartet, a piano quintet and
a work for piano trio.
The quartets were written in a few weeks' time over the
summer. The A Major Quartet is dominated by dreamy and tender moods, although
sudden changes of style reveal the more turbulent side of the composer's personality.
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
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.
For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~uiowacr
on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/.
The Maia Quartet has its own page at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/SOMfest5.html.