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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 13, 2004

Iowa City Native Comes Home With Arianna String Quartet For Feb. 25 Concert

Iowa City native Kurt Baldwin will return to familiar grounds as cellist of the Arianna String Quartet when they present a free concert as guests of the University of Iowa School of Music at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The individual members of the quartet -- Baldwin, violinists John McGrosso and Rebecca Rhee, and violist Robert Meyer -- have been appointed faculty artist teachers at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, where they group is the quartet-in-residence. They also have a concert series at Eastern Michigan University, where they were artists-in-residence from 1996 to 2000.

The Chicago Tribune recently said of the Arianna Quartet that "the silken refinement of the playing was achieved with no loss of expressive vitality or spontaneity. Quartet playing doesn't get much better than this."

The quartet will play two works on the Feb. 25 concert, Felix Mendelssohn's String Quartet in D major, op.44 no.1, and Henri Dutilleux's String Quartet "Ainsi la Nuit" (Thus the night). To close the program, two members of the UI's Maia Quartet -- violist Elizabeth Oakes and cellist Hannah Holman -- will join with the Arianna Quartet to perform Johannes Brahms's Sextet in G major, op.36.

Mendlelssohn's Quartet in D Major was completed in the summer of 1838. The last Quartet of the three in Op.44, it was placed first in the published set because, Mendelssohn said, it is "more fiery and more grateful for the players."

Dutilleux's quartet "Ainsi la Nuit" (Thus the Night), written in 1976, shows the precision and power of Dutilleux's compositional style. Driven by nuance and gesture, the texture maintains a fluidity and purpose throughout, only occasionally finding its expression through density of sound. "Ainsi la Nuit" is broken into seven primary sections which are performed without pause between sections.

It is surprising that prior to Brahms' two string sextets very few composers had made use of this rich instrumentation. There is evidence that a string sextet by Louis Spohr, published just five years before Brahms wrote the first of his two sextets, was admired by the circle of friends around Robert and Clara Schumann, of which Brahms was definitely a part. If so, it could have been the inspiration for Brahms' two popular works for this instrumentation.

Op.36, the second of Brahms' two sextets, was composed in 1864 and 1865, with sketches of the third movement traceable as far back as a decade earlier. It is a favorite among string players because of the rich warmth of the music.

Since it was formed in 1992, the Arianna String Quartet has captured the Grand Prize in the 1994 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition and First Prize in both the Coleman and Carmel National Competitions. They were also finalists in the 1999 Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition.

The Arianna Quartet has performed throughout the United States, Mexico, Japan, Canada and France, and has given successful debuts at Orchestra Hall in Chicago and Tokyo's Suntory Hall. They have collaborated with Paul Katz, Gilbert Kalish, Bernard Greenhouse, Andres Cardenes, Richard Stoltzman and the Vermeer Quartet.

The quartet has been featured in concerts at the Spoleto, Banff, Norfolk and Strings in the Mountains festivals, was ensemble-in-residence at the Tanglewood Music Center, and was invited by Isaac Stern to perform for his Carnegie Hall master classes. They have been heard on live nationally broadcast performances in Osaka, Japan, and on Canada's CBC radio, several times as part of Chicago's prestigious Dame Myra Hess Series, and on National Public Radio's "Performance Today" program. They have recorded for the Centaur, Albany, and Urtext classical labels.

McGrosso has appeared as soloist with the Chicago Symphony and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Juilliard, and holds a Performer's Certificate from Northern Illinois University. From 1992 to 1999 he was a member of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. He joined the Arianna String Quartet in 1998.

Rhee is a native of Hawaii, where she began violin studies at the age of 10. She went on to study at the University of Southern California and has also studied at Northern Illinois University. She has appeared as a soloist with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and Honolulu Youth Symphony, and has performed in many music festivals, including Tanglewood, Norfolk, Kent/Blossom, and Strings in the Mountains. She was a founding member of the Arianna String Quartet.

Meyer began playing the viola in the public school strings program in New Rochelle, New York. He studied at the Manhattan School of Music while in high school and holds degrees from the University of Michigan and Rice University in Houston, Tex. He was a founding member of the New Fromm Players, a contemporary music ensemble in residence at the Tanglewood Music Center. From 2001-2003, he performed as the assistant principal violist of the Richmond (Va.) Symphony.

Baldwin began his cello studies in the Iowa City public schools at the age of 12. His first teachers included Candace Wiebener and Margaret Brooke. He received his bachelor's degree from the San Francisco Conservatory, his master's from the New England Conservatory, and a Performer's Certificate from Northern Illinois University. A founding member of the Arianna String Quartet, he has won Grand Prizes in the Fischoff, Coleman and Carmel competitions, and has given concerts throughout the United States and Japan. For several summers he was the principal cellist of the Spoleto Festival in Italy and the United States.

A founding member of the Maia Quartet, Oakes has performed throughout the United States and Japan and has performed in venues including Alice Tully Hall and the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. She is a founder of the Foothills Chamber Music Festival in North Carolina and currently serves both as one of its directors and regular performers. She has given concerto performances with the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra, and served as assistant principal of the Canton (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra and as principal of both the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra and the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra.

Holman, who served as principal cello with the Cedar Rapids Symphony in 2001-02, joined the Maia Quartet in the summer of 2002. She has been principal cello of the Jackson (Mich.) Symphony and assistant principal of the Greater Lansing Symphony and the Richmond (Va.) Symphony. As soloist she played with orchestras in Michigan, Virginia, and Georgia, and was invited to the Pablo Casals Cello competition in Germany and the Luis Sigall Cello Competition in Chile.

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.

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