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Release: Sept. 13, 2001

Amos Yang, cellist of Maia String Quartet, will play solo recital Sept. 23

The versatile cellist Amos Yang, who has performed on the University of Iowa campus just within the past year as a member of the Maia String Quartet, in chamber music with other faculty colleagues, as a concerto soloist with orchestra and as a solo recitalist, will play music for solo cello at 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Yang's UI faculty recital will be free and open to the public.

Yang will play three works: the Solo Sonata of Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti; the Suite No. 1 in G major for solo cello by J.S. Bach; and "Seven Tunes Heard in China," composed in 1995 by Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng.

"I had the chance to work with Bright Sheng this summer," Yang said. "He is composer in residence at the University of Michigan and is a BRILLIANT composer. Yo-Yo Ma just released the first recording of this work this past year.

"The music is from various provinces of China and even one from Taiwan. There is the 'Drunken Fisherman,' a Tibetan Dance theme, the 'Little Cabbage' and others. It's the first piece I've ever been instructed to use either a credit card or a guitar pick for!"

One of the first students accepted by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Sheng later moved to New York, where he attended Queens College, CUNY, and Columbia University. His music has been performed to great critical response by major ensembles and soloists around the world, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Shanghai Symphony, Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Leonard Bernstein, Peter Serkin, Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax, among others.

"Bright Sheng's astonishingly vibrant 'Seven Tunes Heard in China' appropriates Quinhai folk tunes with a restless energy," Catherine Nelson wrote in the BBC Music Magazine, and New York Times critic Paul Griffiths commented, "We seemed to be hearing traces of ancient tunes being sung, hummed, whistled and played right across the Eurasian land mass."

Bach's s six suites for solo cello, composed around 1720, are the earliest works to earn a permanent place in the virtuoso cello repertoire. They were written while Bach was music director at the court of Prince Leopold of Coethen. A number of Bach's greatest instrumental works were written about the same time, including the sonatas and partitas for solo violin and the Brandenburg Concertos.

In Bach's time there was already a long tradition of unaccompanied pieces for stringed instruments, but Bach far surpassed his predecessors. His works not only show an intimate understanding of the performance techniques and possibilities of each instrument, but they also maintain a high level of musical interest, while covering a wide range of rhythmic styles and expressive possibilities -- qualities that have made the solo suites an essential part of any cellist's education.

One of the world's best known living composers, Gyorgy Ligeti is widely acknowledged as a musical pioneer of the late 20th century. His varied output, which he began in pre-communist Hungary and continued in western Europe after the Hungarian communist revolution, represents an individual, personal style based on texture and sound density. His music, emotionally intense at times and full of vivacity, humor and irony at others, has become one of the major influences in contemporary music. He came to wide public attention when his music was used in the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick's film "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Ligeti was born in 1923 in Transylvania, a Hungarian territory that became part of Romania at the end of World War I. A Jewish, Hungarian family in Nazi Hungary, Ligeti's family was imprisoned in a labor camp in 1942; only he survived. After the war he was able to resume studies in Budapest, and he began teaching at the Liszt Academy in 1950.

The Russian invasion put a final end to his difficult life in Hungary; he fled to Vienna in 1956, and was immediately embraced by important figures in the avant-garde. He was invited to join the West German Radio electronic music studio in Cologne, and the three years he spent working in the studio were decisive influences on his music. Ligeti gained Austrian citizenship in 1967, and since 1973 has taught at the Hamburg Music Academy. Among many other major awards, he received the 1986 Grawemeyer Prize.

The newest member of the Maia Quartet, Yang joined the group in 1996 after playing with the Deutsche Kammerakademie (German Academy of Chamber Music) in Dusseldorf and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. He has won first prize in the Grace Vamos Cello Competition and the American String Teacher's Association Cello Competition and was a finalist in the Pierre Fournier Cello Competition. He has performed a wide range of concertos and played chamber music with the Ying Quartet, pianist Ann Schein and violinists Perrin Yang and Earl Carlyss.

Yang holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the Juilliard School. He also studied at the Eastman School of Music and in London, England, under a grant from the Beebe Foundation. He attended the Tanglewood Music Festival, where he received the CD Jackson Award for outstanding contribution to the festival in 1994.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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