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Release: Sept. 29, 2000

Emerson String Quartet performs two all-Shostakovich programs at the UI Oct. 20, 22

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Emerson String Quartet will present "The Late String Quartets of Dmitri Shostakovich" in two concerts presented by the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium -- quartets 11-13 at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20 and quartets 14-15 along with the his Adagio and Polka for string quartet at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22. Both concerts will be presented in Clapp Recital Hall.

Members of the Emerson String Quartet will discuss their Shostakovich Project -- through which they have tackled all 15 of the legendary Russian composer’s quartets -- in a free event moderated by UI Symphony conductor William LaRue Jones at noon Sunday, Oct. 22 in the UI Museum of Art.

The concert and discussion by the Emerson String Quartet are part of "Russian Un-Orthodox," a series of fall concerts and other events at the UI focusing on music from Russia from the 20th century.

"Russian Un-Orthodox" includes a Sept. 29 performance of Shostakovich’s Seventh Quartet by Maia String Quartet, the resident quartet of the UI School of Music; a free introduction to the music of Shostakovich, featuring the Maia Quartet and Russian musician Oleg Timofeyev at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11 in the UI International Center Lounge; and a Festival of Contemporary Russian Music, presented by the UI Center for New Music Sept. 28-Oct. 1 in Clapp Recital Hall, the Museum of Art and the Becker Communication Studies Building.

The classical music world took notice when the multiple-Grammy Award-winning Emerson String Quartet -- widely regarded as the best string quartet of our time -- set its sights last spring on all the Shostakovich quartets in a five-concert series in New York and London.

The concerts were the culmination of several years of study in the wake of communism’s fall in Russia. Although Shostakovich is acknowledged as one of the major composers of the 20th century, he has also become a figure of considerable controversy regarding his role in the Soviet era. The Emerson’s Shostakovich Project has helped to confirm the importance of the Shostakovich quartet cycle, as well as to clarify the excruciating context of the composer’s tumultuous career under Soviet control.

"Now we can understand the pain and suffering that was endured under those regimes," says Emerson violist Lawrence Dutton. Violinist Philip Setzer adds, "You have to think about how he was used and abused, seeing so many around him killed or disappearing."

The relationship of Shostakovich and the Soviet state -- with which he was alternately in and out of favor -- has been a matter of considerable debate in the quarter-century since his death. Outwardly a loyal citizen who remained in the Soviet Union at times when many artists fled to seek freedom of expression in the West, Shostakovich is considered by many to have been a disillusioned socialist whose compositions reveal the conflict between his urge for personal expression and the rigid ideological requirements of the totalitarian state.

The point on which virtually everyone can agree is that Shostakovich was one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. He worked in the largest and most challenging musical forms, creating dramatic, emotionally powerful music that is both accessible to audiences and filled with technical invention. Tragedy, whimsy, sarcasm, parody, grandeur and grotesquerie are among the many moods and emotions encompassed by his work.

The Emerson String Quartet, an ensemble that has become a frequent visitor to the UI, has won three Grammy Awards, and Gramophone’s Record of the Year Award -- becoming the first chamber music ensemble ever to win the magazine’s top honor.

The quartet’s artistry has been the subject of two award-winning films, and their schedule of more than 100 concerts each season takes them to the world’s musical capitals, including 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.

The Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation of Marshalltown is the sponsor of the Emerson String Quartet concerts, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for each Emerson Quartet concert are $30 ($10 for UI students, $24 for senior citizens and $15 for audience members 17 and younger) from the Hancher box office.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance 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.

Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at <>.

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.

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