Iowa State Music Department presents George Tsontakis and Amara Piano Quartet

Devin Wilmott

Award-winning American composer George Tsontakis will be on Iowa State’s campus for two events on February 22 and 23 at the Martha Ellen Tye Recital Hall.

Two-time Grammy nominee, Tsontakis has been the recipient of the international Grawmeyer Award in 2005 and the Charles Ives Living award in 2007. Aside from being awarded two of the richest prizes in all of classical music, he is recognized for his 11 major orchestral works along with four concertos. His music has been performed by some of the best ensembles in the world. 

“Tsontakis contributions to classical music involve bringing a neo-romantic quality of sound and a poetic aspect to music back to the classical style that is experiencing a renaissance after several decades of highly intellectual but often emotionally dry composing by many of the world’s composers,” said Dr. Jonathon Sturm, viola in the Amara Piano Quartet and faculty at Iowa State’s music department.

Tsontakis will present a lecture entitled “Songs Without Words: The Future of Classical Music,” at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday. The lecture will present a perspective from a living composer, whose music has been acknowledged by audiences as powerful, what future there is for the kind of music he writes in the world and in America particularly.

“For anyone who has known that classical music equals Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and composers like that, and may have wondered ‘Why do people listen to that music?’ The lecture may explain to them what the future of that kind of music is, and will provide a chance at the end of the talk to ask questions about music that the world has considered great art for centuries,” Sturm said.

The next night,  the Amara Piano Quartet will perform a variety of Tsontakis compositions and in doing so take it’s audience through a spectrum of sounds ranging from ethereal to powerful. The concert will give those in attendance a chance to hear music by an important American composer and hear, in his own words, the kind of art and expression Tsontakis is trying to communicate through sound.

“The sounds could flow between a sense of the sparkle of snow to the loneliness of outer space or a dessert island, to a conversation, or an argument or a battle…” Sturm said.

The Amara Piano Quartet, formerly known as the Ames Piano Quartet, is in its second year as a new ensemble and includes Iowa State Faculty who have been in residence at ISU since the 1970s and have over that time recorded fourteen compact discs and performed around the world, and Gregory Oakes, clarinet, who similarly has an international concert career, several CDs, and critical acclaim to his credit.

 The Amara Quartet has already performed in many cities across the United States and Canada. The ensemble is currently in process of recording its first publicly released compact disk and will use the second piece of Sunday’s concert on the disk. The quartet consists of Borijov Martinic-Jeric (violin), Jonathan Sturm (viola), George Work (cello), Mei-Hsuan Huang (piano) and Gregory Oakes (clarinet).

“It is not often one can be in the audience of a concert by an award winning composer with the composer seated there as well, so it is a unique opportunity just in that respect alone, and just for the uniqueness of the experience it is an intriguing event for a college student looking for something new to experience,” Sturm said. “For people whose preferences for music include either rock, rap, country, hip hop or other modern pop styles, this concert will provide a listening experience quite different from those to which they are accustomed.”

The Lecture will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and the Concert at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Martha Ellen Tye Recital Hall. Both the lecture and concert are free admission to the public.