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University of Iowa News Release

April 6, 2006

Photo: Members of the Maia Quartet (from left), violinists Tricia Park and Zoran Jakovcic, cellist Hannah Holman and violist Elizabeth Oakes. Click here for a higher-resolution image.

Maia Quartet Will Play Haydn, Beethoven And Jalbert April 20

The Maia Quartet, resident string quartet at the University of Iowa School of Music, will play "Icefield Sonnets," a new work by composer Pierre Jalbert, on a free concert at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 20, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Jalbert will be present for the performance and will meet with composition students at the School of Music during his visit to campus.

Other works on the April 20 concert will be Haydn's String Quartet in G minor, op. 74 no. 3 ("The Rider"), and Beethoven's String Quartet in E minor, op. 59 no. 2.

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 Tricia Park and Zoran Jakovcic, violist Elizabeth Oakes and cellist Hannah Holman -- are all members of the School of Music faculty.

The quartet has had a relationship with Jalbert since they premiered his First String Quartet at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall and also recorded it as well. The connection dates back even further, to a friendship between Jalbert and Oakes when they were both students at the Oberlin (Ohio) Conservatory.

"Icefield Sonnets" was written in 2004 for the Ying Quartet and was inspired by a set of poems of the same title by Anthony Hawley. Jalbert explains, "Each poem in the set speaks of the notion of 'north,' specifically in the winter months, and it was my aim to capture some of the different moments of 'coldness,' from quiet stillness to more violent activity."

Like the set of poems, the piece is in three movements, the first marked "Cold, airy, suspended, like an ice crystal," the second "Driving forward," and the third "Sustained."

"Jalbert's quartet is evocative, atmospheric and very emotional," Park said. "We anticipate that audiences will find his music accessible and exciting. We chose the Haydn and Beethoven quartets, because they are works from the standard quartet repertoire that we find to be equally dramatic and compelling."

Haydn composed six string quartets around 1793, between his two concert tours to England. Nicknamed the "Apponyi" Quartets for the Austrian count to whom they were dedicated, they were published in 1795 and '96 in two groups of three as op. 71 and 74.

Like the two sets of "London" Symphonies composed for the two visits to England, these six quartets were intended for public performance and not for private musical enjoyment, as was the norm for Haydn's chamber music. The last quartet of the six, op. 74 no. 3 in G minor, is known as the "Rider" Quartet for its galloping first theme. The quartet is also known for its slow movement, in the unexpected key of E major. An especially beautiful movement, it seems to approach the style of Haydn's young pupil, Beethoven.

Beethoven composed the three op. 59 string quartets for Count Razumovsky, the Russian ambassador to the Imperial Court in Vienna. They were written in 1806, around the same time as works in what is often called Beethoven's "heroic" style: the "Kreutzer" violin Sonata, the "Appassionata" Piano Sonata, the Fifth Piano Concerto and the "Eroica" Symphony.

Beethoven's first set of string quartets, written in 1798-1800, followed the classical models of Haydn and Mozart. But with the "Razumovksy" Quartets, Beethoven entered what musicologist Joseph Kerman has called "a new artistic universe." They are much longer, more intense works that seem to stretch the expressive and sonic possibilities of the four string instruments.

It was little wonder, Kerman noted, "that in the 1800s quartet players who liked (the first set of quartets) found Op. 59 a closed book. There had never been such a quartet before."

Jalbert is associate professor of composition at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music. He has received numerous awards for his compositions, including the Rome Prize, the BBC Masterprize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, BMI and ASCAP Awards, a Society of Composer's Award and the Bearns Prize in Composition.

His compositions have been performed throughout the United States and abroad, including three Carnegie Hall performances of his orchestral works, the most recent in January 2006 with the Houston Symphony. In October 2001 the London Symphony, under the direction of Daniel Harding, performed his "In Aeternam" at the Barbican Centre in London as part of the BBC's Masterprize Competition, in which he received first prize. He has served as composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and with the California Symphony.

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, it 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 original members were students at the Cleveland Institute of Music. They were subsequently awarded fellowships at the Peabody Conservatory and the Juilliard School, where they worked closely with the Juilliard Quartet and served as their teaching assistants.

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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OTHER INFORMATION: "Icefield Sonnets" by Anthony Hawley


Cold is a cell

In which one is allowed

To walk around the lake

And think of walking

Or defend the logic

Of glacial water

Sing the oval

With a skate's blade

Habits of its shape

The way a lip

Leaves an imprint

On glass a trace

Air enough just

To shake the frame


Glass is a place

From which to view


Say hellogoodbye

In the same line

Or move across

An icy surface

Inches forward

Years witness

Little change

Requires a fixed gaze

To observe glacial

Motion the elk

Make stirrings


North is a notion

And a motion tundra's

Stilled grammar

Or the beauty of scant

And drowned out


Throughout the town

Built in planks round

About the river forks

The mouth's glissade

In which direction

Doesn't matter

There's north enough

To keep lips frozen