MusicIC Festival to celebrate ‘transcendence’ June 21-24

The MusicIC festival returns for a seventh season from June 21-24, 2017. In an effort to provide a moment of respite during these challenging times, when our stability and peace are threatened on a seemingly daily basis, MusicIC presents four programs that explore the cyclical quality of life through works that embody the qualities of light, darkness, and transcendence. The Festival is presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization.

The festival program, curated by MusicIC Artistic Director Tricia Park, features great string quartets of Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. In addition, this summer’s programming will feature a recent work by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov. The final evening concert blends Beethoven and the poetry of T.S. Eliot for an innovative evening of live music at the Englert Theatre that will bring MusicIC’s 2017 summer programming to an exciting and inventive finale.

Music during the festival will be performed by the Solera Quartet, with Tricia Park and Miki-Sophia Cloud on violin, Molly Carr on viola, and Andrew Janss on cello. They will be joined at the Friday, June 23 concert by writer and actress Jennifer Fawcett from Working Group Theatre.

The festival begins on Wednesday, June 21, with a free concert at Trinity Episcopal Church at 7:30 p.m. The program, “Lightness,” will feature Haydn’s “Sunrise Quartet.” Also on the program are Golijov’s “Tenebrae,” and Beethoven’s String Quartet in B flat major Op. 18, No. 6. The Beethoven piece is tied to the “Heilgenstadt Testament,” a letter written by the composer wherein he confides his deep despair about his deafness as well as his intense will to overcome his physical and emotional ailments so that he would come to realize his full artistic potential.

Earlier on June 21, in partnership with the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, the Solera Quartet and Fawcett will present a free “Eleventh Hour” discussion that explores the connections between Beethoven’s Op. 132 String Quartet and T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets through a mix of live music and poetry. This sneak preview of the June 23 concert that closes this year’s festival will be at 11 a.m. in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library.

The festival’s second night, Thursday, June 22, returns to Trinity for a second free concert at 7:30 p.m. This program, “Darkness,” focuses on compositions driven by loss and longing. It begins with Schubert’s Quartettsatz in C minor, D 703, and closes with Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in F minor, Op. 80.

The latter piece long has been thought to be in response to the death of the composer’s sister, Fanny. But recent scholarship suggests that Mendelssohn’s estrangement from and possible affair with his muse, Jenny Lind, aka “the Swedish Nightingale,” also contributed to the sorrow that informs the quartet.

After exploring the themes of lightness and darkness, the festival ends with “Transcendence,” a concert featuring a work by Beethoven that Park says is “an emotionally spiritual work, full of longing, gratitude, and contemplative attempts to converse with God and the afterlife.” That program, on Friday, June 23, will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Englert Theatre. Tickets are $15, and are on sale now at the Englert Box Office (www.englert.org). The Solera Quartet will perform Beethoven’s String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132. In addition, excerpts from T.S. Eliot’s groundbreaking work, The Four Quartets, will be read by Fawcett.

There is evidence that Eliot found inspiration in Beethoven’s composition, and that it may have been a catalyst for him to write his Four Quartets. In a letter, Eliot wrote that he had a record of Op. 132 on his gramophone: “I find it quite inexhaustible to study. There is a sort of heavenly or at least more than human gaiety about some of [Beethoven’s] later things which one imagines might come to oneself as the fruit of reconciliation and relief after immense suffering; I should like to get something of that into verse before I die.”

A special talk-back session will be held in the Englert gallery space following the concert. Iowa Public Radio’s Barney Sherman will lead a discussion with the Solera Quartet about the performance.

The festival closes with a special free family concert at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 24, at the Iowa City Public Library’s Meeting Room A. The concert will focus on Haydn’s “Sunrise Quartet,” and will feature youths reading work written in response to the theme of the composition, in partnership with the Iowa Youth Writing Project.

Festival sponsors are the University of Iowa, Dunn Investments, Iowa Public Radio, MidWestOne, and Toyota-Scion of Iowa City.

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