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University of Iowa News Release

Release: March 24, 2003

UI Faculty, Guest Will Perform Messiaen's 'Quartet for the End of Time' April 3

A chamber ensemble of University of Iowa faculty members and a guest will present Olivier Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" -- a very demanding work regarded by many as one of the most powerful and influential works of the 20th century -- as part of a free concert at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 3 in Clapp Recital hall on the UI campus.

The quartet performing Messiaen's work will comprise pianist Rene Lecuona, violinist Timothy Shiu and cellist Anthony Arnone from the UI faculty; and guest clarinetist Daniel Silver, from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Shiu and Lecuona will also perform the Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano by Alfred Schnittke.

The unusual instrumentation of the "Quartet for the End of Time" is a result of the work's origins during World War II, when Messiaen was held in a German prison camp. Among his fellow inmates he discovered a clarinetist, a violinist and a violoncellist, for whom he wrote a short trio. The success of that work led him to add seven more movements, and a piano to the ensemble, to create the "Quartet for the End of Time." Messiaen and his friends first performed it for their 5,000 fellow prisoners on Jan. 15, 1941.

Shiu said he is "delighted to collaborate with my friends and colleagues in performing Messiaen's profoundly mystical quartet. This piece has long haunted my imagination, ever since I first heard it in 1989. That performance was one of a handful of truly transformative musical experiences I have had in my life; and it is not until now, over a decade later, that I have felt ready to approach the piece myself."

Two major themes appear in virtually all of Messiaen's works: his religious mysticism and a lifelong fascination with the sounds of bird songs. His religious source for the quartet was a passage in the chapter 10 of the Book of Revelation about the descent of the seventh angel, at the sound of whose trumpet the mystery of God will be consummated, and who announces "that there should be time no longer."

According to the composer, the quartet was not "about" the Apocalypse or his own captivity, but was intended as a musical reflection on the end of past and future time and the beginning of eternity. For Messiaen there was also a musical meaning for the angel's announcement, in that his development of a complex and flexible rhythmic system more or less literally put an end to the measured "time" of western classical music.

Musical depictions of bird songs also appear in several movements of the quartet. In the composer's own descriptions, the eight movements are: "Liturgy of crystal," which includes "the awakening of the birds" and "a halo of trills lost high in the trees"; "Vocalise, for the Angel who announces the end of Time"; "Abyss of the birds"; "Interlude: Scherzo"; "Praise to the Eternity of Jesus"; "Dance of fury, for the seven trumpets"; "A mingling of rainbows for the Angel who announces the end of Time"; and "Praise to the Immortality of Jesus."

Schnittke was the leading figure of the Soviet post-war avant-garde and remains a prominent composer of international acclaim. The majority of his works were written using the classical forms of symphony, sonata and concerto, but with 20-century freedoms applied. The result is a mixture of past and present stylistic features that is referred to as "polystylism."

The First Violin Sonata was written for Schnittke's friend, the violinist Mark Lubotsky, who played it for the first time in Moscow in 1964.

Shiu believes that Schnittke, because of the spiritual values in his music, makes a good companion for Messiaen's music. "I feel that Schnittke and Messiaen share a deep spiritual affinity," he said. "Schnittke's vibrant and characterful sonata should make provide good balance to this program of 20h-century masterpieces. Although both pieces employ a serial approach to pitch organization, there is nothing cold or simply abstract about them. I find that they speak very strongly and directly to the human heart and spirit."

Silver teaches on the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder and is active as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral performer, clinician and teacher. He has served as principal clarinet of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Baltimore Opera Orchestra, and the Washington Chamber Symphony at the Kennedy Center. A recent Washington Post review praised his "sense of freedom and extraordinary control."

Silver has performed with the Baltimore Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony, including Carnegie Hall concerts with David Zinman and Lorin Maazel. He has been a frequent concerto soloist, with orchestras in the United States and abroad. His festival credits include Aspen, Tanglewood and the Interlochen Arts Camp, where he has taught since 1991. Recent engagements include the Australian Festival of Chamber Music and the Eastern Shore Chamber Music Festival (Md.).

A founding member of the Maia Quartet, Shiu joined the UI faculty with the other members of the quartet in 1998. He has concertized extensively throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia, and has collaborated with violinist Peter Zazovsky of the Muir Quartet, violist Michael Tree of the Guarneri Quartet, the late flutist Samuel Baron and other renowned chamber musicians. He has been a member of the Canton (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra and the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra in Louisiana, where he held the position of Principal Second Violin.

Before joining the UI faculty, Shiu taught chamber music at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and has also served at the Juilliard School as teaching assistant to Joel Smirnoff of the Juilliard Quartet. His summer teaching engagements include the Interlochen Arts Camp's Advanced String Quartet Institute and Colorado Music in the Mountains.

Now in his second year on the UI string faculty, Arnone is a founding member of the Meriden Trio and the Sedgwick String Quartet, which regularly performs at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C. He was principal cellist of the Madison Symphony in Wisconsin 1996-2001, was a member of the Orchestra Philharmonique de Nice and the Wichita Symphony, and was principal cellist of the Spoleto Festival in Italy 1992-1997.

Arnone has taught master classes and performed across the country and currently teaches summers at the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina and the Stonybrook Music Festival in New York. Before coming to the UI, he held a faculty position at Ripon College in Wisconsin where he taught cello and bass, music theory and chamber music, and conducted the orchestra.

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 65 on-campus concerts. She recently recorded two major chamber works of the composer Hans Gal with UI violinist Annette-Barbara Vogel and cellist Fulbert Slenczka, and she recorded many of the songs of Arthur Honegger with UI soprano Rachel Joselson.

Lecuona has given solo and chamber music recitals throughout the United States, South America and the Caribbean. As an Artistic Ambassador for the United States, she gave 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. An advocate of 20th-century music, Lecuona has appeared as solo pianist and chamber musicians in concerts of the UI Center for New Music. Her 20th-century repertoire includes several premieres of new works.

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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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,