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Hancher welcomes Pacifica Quartet

BY ISAAC HAMLET | MARCH 05, 2015 5:00 AM

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Four musicians take the stage, armed with instruments of taut string and polished wood. With ready bows and fingers, the quartet launches into a musical tradition 400 years old.

A single cello and viola coupled with a pair of violins make up the Pacifica Quartet, a groups whose fervor and skill have elegantly summoned chamber music for the enjoyment of audiences around the world.

At 7:30 p.m. Friday, Hancher will host the Pacifica Quartet at the Riverside Recital Hall.
Pacifica Quartet was formed in 1994 and quickly rose in popularity. It has won numerous competitions and has been honored with awards including a 2009 Grammy for Best Quartet Performance.

“This is some of the best music ever. Period,” said Masumi Per Rostad, the quartet’s violist. “It’s bringing together four string interments that are very different with a similar voice. It’s something very difficult that every composer tries their hand at, and when it comes together there’s an incredible richness.”

Rostad joined the group in 2001 after receiving a master’s at Julliard. He performs in more than 90 concerts a year with the Pacifica Quartet and is also a faculty member at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana, with his fellow quartet members.

“One of the most gratifying aspects is the repertoire, but there’s also a satisfying lifestyle,” Rostad said. “We travel [around the world] and get to be involved with composers who are experimenting with new works.”

Over the past few of months, in celebration of its 20th anniversary, these concerts have included the première of Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory, a piece composed for the quartet by Pulitzer-Prize-winner Shulamit Ran.

“We knew Ran from the University of Chicago,” Rostad said. “Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory was commissioned because we love her music. It’s one of the greatest new pieces I’ve heard in a while.”

The composition, Ran’s third string quartet, will be performed in between pieces from Beethoven and Mendelsohn.

The title of the piece is derived from an early 1900s German art exhibit titled Glitter and Doom. Part of the inspiration for the composition also came from Jewish-German painter Felix Nussbaum, a Holocaust victim who — as Ran explains in her program notes — continued to create portraits even after realizing his end was imminent.

“I want my listener to be moved by the experience,” Ran said. “I want the listener to think of someone like Felix Nussbaum and the millions like him, who perished in the Holocaust. It is my way, as an artist, of saying ‘do not forget’ and of giving voice to the voiceless. But it is also a homage to the survival of the human spirit. And in that sense it is also intended to inspire, as well as memorialize.”
Hancher Programming Director Jacob Yarrow said he admires the quartet for the members’ thoughtfulness as well as their musicianship.

“I have a great respect for their approach and the care they take in their performances,” he said.

“The event is a great opportunity to hear excellent chamber music.”

In addition to Friday's performance, the members of the Pacifica Quartet also spoke to the public about building music careers, and they will work with UI students interested in chamber music.

“They’re a world-class group that’s internationally recognized,” said Elizabeth Oakes, the coordinator of the University of Iowa String Quartet Residency Program. “This is a tremendous opportunity to hear an ensemble of this caliber in our community.”


MUSIC
Pacifica Quartet, Chamber music
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Riverside Resident Hall
Admission: $10-$35


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