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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 3, 2003

Maia Quartet Introduces New Season, New Member, New Repertoire Oct. 16

The Maia String Quartet, the quartet in residence at the University of Iowa School of Music, will open its 2003-04 concert season with some new repertoire and a fresh face in the group at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The concert will be free and open to the public.

The fresh face will be second violinist Margaret Soper Gutierrez, an Iowa City native who was selected during the summer to replace second violinist Timothy Shiu. The daughter of Robert T. Soper, UI professor emeritus of surgery, and Helene Soper, Gutierrez is a graduate of West High School, where she was concertmaster of the orchestra. She studied violin in Iowa City with Sonja Zeithamel and Doris Preucil at the Preucil School of Music.

Gutierrez joins violinist Amy Appold, violist Elizabeth Oakes and cellist Hannah Holman as a regular member of the Maia Quartet, and a member of the UI School of Music faculty. In addition to teaching chamber music and working with individual students, the Maia Quartet presents a series of free concerts on the UI campus. Future concerts in the 2003-04 season will be Thursday, Nov. 6, with bassoonist Benjamin Coelho and violist Christine Rutledge; Friday, Feb. 13; Tuesday, March 11 with Coelho and bassist Volkan Orhan; and Sunday, April 25, with violist Christine Rutledge and cellist Anthony Arnone.

The Oct. 16 program of three pieces -- Joseph Haydn's Quartet in D major, op. 71 no. 2; Leos Janacek's Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters"; and Felix Mendelssohn's Quartet in D major, op. 44 no. 1 -- represents new repertoire for the Maia Quartet, although it is music that was known by the individual players from other experiences.

"We chose the Haydn as it is not often played," Gutierrez said. "And it is a wonderful vehicle for us to gel as a quartet. Haydn requires clarity in articulation, sound and intonation -- things basic and absolutely necessary to a successful ensemble. As a new piece, we could come to it fresh and create our own interpretation of it together."

Gutierrez said this was also why the quartet chose the Janacek: it was a new piece for all four of them to play. "Written in a 20-day frenzy near the end of Janacek's life, it is a very emotionally intense, musically and technically very challenging work" she said. "It is joyous, restless, ripe with recurring melodic motifs, dark and bitingly sardonic -- all rolled into one deeply moving and troubling work."

The piece was inspired by Janacek's love affair with a much younger married woman, Kamila Stosslova. The composer wrote more than 700 letters to her over an 11-year span. He originally titled the work "Love Letters," but apparently felt that to be too revealing a title and changed it to "Intimate Letters."

Mendelssohn's youthful quartet was a piece that all four members of the group had played at one time or another -- but never as a group. "This became something else to make our own as the Maia Quartet," Gutierrez said. "We wanted to have its youthful exuberance and joie de vivre after the emotional catharsis of the Janacek. With its two high energy outer movements surrounding more tender and achingly beautiful middle movements, it just makes a wonderful statement to close the concert."

Founded in 1990, 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 NATO. 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, the members of the quartet 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.

Gutierrez was selected to join the quartet after an extensive series of auditions. More than 20 violinists applied for the position, and four were invited to hold two-day auditions and rehearsals with the other players.

"Margaret was head and shoulders above the others in every respect," first violinist Amy Appold commented. "She was a great fit with the rest of the group -- she really seemed to connect with us. The other thing that I was struck with was the obvious joy she had -- not just for music, but for chamber music and for the second violin role in the quartet. She found things in her part that I had never heard before."

Gutierrez has performed and toured with the Baltimore Symphony and the National Symphony. She was concertmaster of the Baltimore Opera Orchestra and the Washington Bach consort, as well as principal second violin with the Washington Chamber Symphony. She was a member of the Vanadium Quartet at the Point Counterpoint Chamber Music Camp and the National Gallery String Quartet in Washington, D.C.

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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