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Haydn no longer in hiding

BY COURTNEY SPEARS | NOVEMBER 11, 2009 7:20 AM

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Regional string players have immersed themselves in the work of the “Father of the String Quartet” to pull off the largest cooperative performance of string musicians Iowa City has ever seen.

Musicians from ages 8 to 78 will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Joseph Haydn’s death by playing all of the composer’s 83 quartets. The performances will be held over nine sessions in City High Opstad Auditorium, 1900 Morningside Drive, and the Preucil School of Music’s Wilson Auditorium, 524 N. Johnson St. The festivities will kick off at 5 p.m. today at Opstad Auditorium.

Admission is free.

“There is so much music going on in Iowa City, but it’s so dispersed,” said Hannah Holman, the cellist for the Maia Quartet. “Rarely does it come together.”

The landmark year for the classical music world presented Holman and the Haydn Quartet Slam committee the opportunity to honor and explore the work of one of the most influential string composers of all time. Local artists will be joined by musicians from Chicago, Coe College, Drake University, Augustana College, and Cornell College.

“[Haydn] influenced so many other great composers,” Holman said. “He really set the tone for what was to follow by influencing composers such as Beethoven and Mozart. He explored the range of what was possible with the string quartet.”



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Lauren Trolley, a second-year master’s candidate in violin performance and one of Holman’s students, said the Slam is a special event for all string players and classical-music fanatics. An experienced Haydn performer, Trolley said she learned from the experience of working with the composer’s music again.

“It’s kind of like a good book,” she said. “If it’s really good, you can read it many times and discover new things. Good music is the same — you will always discover new and exciting things about the characters and [the composer’s] humor.”

Patricia Addis, a Haydn Slam committee member and self-proclaimed “amateur [Haydn] enthusiast,” said exploring the classical composer’s music has been no less than a revelation.

“Through the event, I was forced into some quartets that I had never heard, never played,” she said. “Getting to know things about Haydn that none of us knew has been an absolute delight.”

Addis, a member and founder of the Iowa City Community String Orchestra, has been playing the cello since the sixth grade. Now a retiree, she said she plans to play until she “can’t do it anymore.”

Addis and Holman both said chamber music is an imperative part of a string player’s repertoire.

“It makes a person a different kind of player if [he or she] has substantial experience with chamber music,” Addis said. “The opportunities to go and have fun with [string playing] later are that much greater.”

One of the qualities that makes this musical feat extraordinary for Addis is that family members including siblings, spouses, children, and parents will play separately or together in the same undertaking.

“I would find it hard to imagine there would be another community of this size that would have that many string players available who would be interested in doing something like this,” Addis said.

While interest in the event has not been lacking, many of the long pieces were left unclaimed by participants. The Maia Quartet volunteered to take on the responsibility of 25 pieces, in addition to coaching the UI School of Music’s six student quartets for the Slam.

But Holman said the added work hasn’t been a bad thing.

“It’s been nice to stay at home and sink our teeth into this,” she said. “There’s this sort of coolness factor that it’s happening here.”


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