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Release: Jan. 25, 2002

Maia String Quartet Makes First Foray Into Music For Quartet, Voice

The Maia String Quartet from the University of Iowa School of Music will enter a region of the repertoire that is new for them -- works for string quartet and voice -- and perform some lesser known string quartets on their next concert on the UI campus, at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, in Clapp Recital Hall.

Two members of the UI voice faculty will perform with the quartet: mezzo-soprano Katherine Eberle will sing "Love Blows as the Wind Blows" by George Butterworth, and baritone Stephen Swanson will sing "Dover Beach," op. 3, by American composer Samuel Barber.

Because they are rarely done on chamber concerts, these works are likely as new for the audience as for the players. The other two works on the program are only slightly more familiar to chamber music audiences: the String Quartet No. 3, op. 22, by Paul Hindemith; and the String Quartet in E Minor, op. 44, no. 2, by Felix Mendelssohn.

"We always feel fortunate to have such outstanding colleagues at the UI and look forward to opportunities for collaboration," the quartet’s second violinist Tim Shiu said. "This will be our first foray into the literature for string quartet and voice, and we are thrilled to have this chance to work with Stephen Swanson and Katherine Eberle."

Samuel Barber was one of the most successful American composers of the 20th century. His music was played and sung by leading performers throughout his professional life. His Adagio for Strings is one of the most popular concert pieces written by an American, and his opera "Vanessa" was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera. Another opera, "Anthony and Cleopatra," opened the new Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center in 1966.

"Dover Beach" is a setting of a poem by Matthew Arnold that has become a classic of English literature. Written around 1851 and published in 1867, "Dover Beach" explores the conflict between religious faith and the rapid advances in scientific thought that characterized the Victorian era in England. Although Arnold was an agnostic, the poet concludes with a resolve to commit himself to life: "Ah, love, let us be true/ to one another/ for the world, which seems/ to lie before us like a land of dreams,/ So various, so beautiful, so new."

George Butterworth was an English composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Like many artists of his generation, he lost his life in France during World War I. He is associated with the better known composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams, with whom he collected English folk songs. He wrote a number of songs and choral setting of English poetry of the time in a simple and direct style that was influenced by his folk music research. "Love Blows as the Wind Blows" is a cycle of four songs, based on poems by William Ernest Henley.

Shiu says that he and the other members of the Maia Quartet feel that Hindemith deserves "a more prominent place in the repertoire than he currently enjoys. The Third Quartet is a wonderful example of his ingenuity, vitality and originality in the medium," he said.

One of the leading musicians in pre-World-War II Germany, Hindemith was an extremely versatile composer. He taught composition, performed as a violist and violinist, and wrote chamber music, orchestral and choral pieces, operas and music for children and amateurs.

Although his style was heavily influenced by his German Baroque and Classical predecessors, Hindemith was considered a modernist and his music fell under the disapproval of the Nazi regime. Hindemith moved first to Switzerland then to the United States, where he taught at Yale University 1940-53. He moved back to Switzerland in 1953 and remained there until his death in 1963.

Although most of his chamber music was written around 1920, his six string quartets span most of his creative career, from 1919 to 1945. The Third Quartet was written in 1922.

As a child prodigy growing up in the early years of the Romantic period, Mendelssohn received a thorough musical education. From that training, he was very conscious of the Classical heritage in music, represented by the works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. It is not surprising, therefore, that he wrote works in all the standard genres of the Classical style: symphonies and overtures for orchestra, concertos, string quartets, sonatas and so forth.

Mendelssohn published his set of three string quartets, Op. 44, in 1839, when he was 30. They are considered to be among his finest works in the Classical mold.

The Maia String Quartet is in its fourth year as quartet in residence at the UI 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, teaching chamber music courses and coaching student ensembles.

The Feb. 8 concert is the second of three concerts by the Maia Quartet on campus during the current academic year. The final concert of the series will be at 8 p.m. Monday, April 15,in Clapp Recital Hall.

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. 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.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Eberle has performed internationally in opera, concert and solo recitals. She has performed with the opera theater of Lille, France, the Academy of the West, the Carmel Bach Festival, the Aspen Festival Opera Theatre, the American Institute of Music Studies in Graz, Austria, and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.

Eberle made her New York debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 1993. In 1994 and ‘95 she toured as a musical ambassador for the United States Information Agency, performing in South America and Korea. In 1998 she was elected President of the State Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, hosting the state convention.

Swanson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in 1994. For nearly 20 years before that date he had an active operatic career in Europe. During that time his repertoire grew to 91 roles in opera, operetta and musicals. He has sung on German, Austrian and Dutch radio broadcasts and has been a featured soloist in European festivals including the Berliner Festwochen, the Days of Contemporary Music in Dresden and the Festa Musica Pro in Assisi, Italy.

Swanson has also had an extensive career as a concert singer, appearing as featured soloist with many U.S. orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony under Sir Georg Solti, Raphael Fruehbeck de Burgos and Margaret Hillis. He has recorded Mendelssohn’s "St. Paul" and Ullmann’s "Der Kaiser von Atlantis." Since coming to Iowa City, he has presented solo recitals, appeared in and directed UI Opera Theater productions, and performed with the Chamber Singers of Iowa City.

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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