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University of Iowa News Release

April 16, 2004

Maia Quartet Will Play Music By Composers Known For Their Songs April 25

The Maia Sting Quartet from the University of Iowa School of Music, looking to make their music "sing," will play a program of works by composers known for their vocal writing, at 8 p.m. Sunday, April 25 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The concert, featuring works by Puccini, Brahms and Ned Rorem, will be free and open to the public.

The resident string quartet at the UI School of Music since 1998, the Maia Quartet participates in a series of chamber music concerts on campus each year. Its members -- violinists Amy Appold and Margaret Soper Gutierrez, violist Elizabeth Oakes and cellist Hannah Holman -- are all members of the School of Music faculty. Violist Christine Rutledge and cellist Anthony Arnone, also from the music faculty, will assist on the April 25 concert.

Gutierrez commented on the upcoming concert, "As string players we are constantly striving to emulate the human singing voice in our sound. We wanted, therefore, to program a concert of composers known for their vocal writing."

Three works will form the program: "I Crisantemi" (The chrysanthemums) by Giacomo Puccini; the Quartet No. 4 by American composer Ned Rorem; and Sextet in B-flat major for two violins, two violas and two cellos, op. 18, by Johannes Brahms.

"Puccini wrote his one-movement quartet in 1890, upon the death of Duke Amedeo of Savoy" Gutierrez said. "It is a melancholy but lushly harmonized aria for strings.

"The piece opens and closes with a chromatically rising and then falling motive, reminiscent of a sigh, with a more restless middle section sandwiched between the sighs. The music has all of the beauty and passion of Puccini's operatic writing -- in fact, he reused this music later in the opera 'Manon Lescaut'."

Rorem is best known for his art songs, having written more than 400 of them. They are widely admired by singers for their vocal qualities and expressiveness, and are often performed on vocal recitals.

His Fourth String Quartet was written in 1994 and premiered by the Emerson String Quartet. Unusual in its form, it consists of 10 movements, each inspired by a painting by Picasso. The paintings are named as titles to the movements: "Minotaur," "Child Holding a Dove," "Seated Harlequin" and so forth for all 10 movements.

"Although Rorem now downplays this work from its programmatic origins, it certainly helps us as interpreters of this work to understand better the character and inspiration for each movement," Gutierrez said. "In fact, our studio walls in the Voxman Music Building are papered with copies of each picture! Its a wonderful piece, full of energy and passion one moment, stillness and reflection in another."

Writing chamber music did not come easily to Brahms, who was notorious for false starts and for destroying unfinished works. The op. 18 Sextet is his first published piece of chamber music for strings. It was written in 1857 when Brahms was serving at the Court of Detmold, a picturesque castle in the Teutoburger Forest. Written at a happy time of Brahms' life, it is one of his most cheerful, and most Classical, compositions

"While better known for his piano and orchestral works, Johannes Brahms also wrote some of the most beautiful lieder in the repertoire," Gutierrez said. "The Sextet is full of warm, singing themes shared between the six instruments, contains a theme and variations based on a minor, Hungarian theme, includes a dance-like Scherzo -- more peasant than courtly -- and concludes with a cheerful Rondo."

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. 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, 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.

The Maia Quartet was founded when the four members were students at the Cleveland Institute of Music. The members were subsequently awarded fellowships at the Peabody Conservatory and the Juilliard School. They have also been awarded summer fellowships to the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and the Aspen Center for Advanced Quartet Studies, where they worked with the Emerson, Tokyo, Cleveland and American string quartets. At Juilliard they worked closely with the Juilliard Quartet and served as their teaching assistants.

Now in his third 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.

Rutledge joined the UI faculty in 1998. She is a graduate of the UI School of Music, where she studied with William Preucil. She has appeared as soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player throughout the United States and abroad. She performs as a member of the Fontana Chamber Music Festival ensemble. Her performances and recordings with the Notre Dame String Trio have earned glowing reviews from The Strad, Fanfare and other music publications.

Her solo performances have included those before her professional peers at the 23rd International Viola Congress in Bloomington, Ind., the 24th Congress in Germany, the 28th Congress in Sweden and the 31st Congress in Germany. She has performed the standard viola repertoire, her own transcriptions of Baroque works, several lesser known works for viola, and new works that were written specifically for her. In 2002-03 she played a series of recitals at the UI covering the viola repertoire of J.S. Bach.

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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