Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

NIU’s Avalon Quartet. From left: Blaise Magniere, Marie Wang, Cheng-Hou Lee, Anthony Devroye.
NIU’s Avalon Quartet.
From left: Blaise Magniere, Marie Wang, Cheng-Hou Lee, Anthony Devroye.

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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

September 9, 2009

Avalon Quartet to perform concerts
with eminent violinist Rachel Barton Pine

DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University’s Avalon Quartet will open its third season as the university’s string quartet in residence with a pair of concerts featuring renowned violinist Rachel Barton Pine.

Pine, a Chicago native who has appeared as a soloist with many of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, also will lead an all-school convocation and conduct a master class in violin when she comes to campus Thursday, Sept. 17.

Her visit culminates with a 8 p.m. performance in Boutell Memorial Concert Hall, where she will join the Avalon and pianist Matthew Hagle for Ernest Chausson’s “Concerto for Piano, Violin, and String Quartet, Op. 21.” Chausson’s piece boasts an “unusual” scoring that places it “in between a concerto and chamber music.”

The Avalon – violinists Blaise Magniere and Marie Wang, violist Anthony Devroye and cellist Cheng-Hou Lee – and their guests will reprise their program Friday, Sept. 18, at the Anne and Howard Gottlieb Hall of the Merit School of Music, 38 S. Peoria St. in Chicago. Visit or call (800) 838-3006 to order tickets.

Classical music lovers in DeKalb and Chicago are in for a treat beyond the opportunity for NIU audiences to witness Pine’s talents free of charge. The concert on campus is open to the public, and the building is accessible to all.

“Playing with Rachel is something we have wanted to do. She can reach out to diverse audiences, and she’s such a recognizable presence around here,” Devroye says.

“I approached her with the repertoire we wanted to perform. She knew the piece, she loved the piece and said she’d be happy to do it. We’re also lucky to get her involved in some educational activities. The students are going to get a lot out of her time on campus.”

The first half of the evening includes Beethoven’s “String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6,” and Debussy’s “String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10.”

Beethoven will play a starring role all year for the Avalon, Devroye says. Quartet members hope to program a Beethoven work on each of the season’s concerts.

“There is no one more central to our literature,” he says. “He wrote more string quartets than any almost any composer – 16 in all – and he is the one for whom every work can honestly be considered a masterpiece. He took the genre from its earliest roots, from Haydn to the much more modern conception of the four voices playing an equal role and having equal dialogue.”

Meanwhile, the four members of the Avalon continue to strike a harmonious balance between their performing and teaching.

The quartet is on the road “on and off” these days, still playing upward of three dozen concerts a year. Upcoming performances are booked in New York City and Massachusetts, but most gigs are closer to DeKalb.

“We find ourselves trying to do more and more not too far away from school. We try to not be gone for more than a week at a time, and we’re doing a fair amount in the greater Chicago area,” Devroye says.

“The string studio is back to healthy numbers and high quality; we have a full complement of strings for the philharmonic. Each of us is engaged in diverse teaching activities, including studio master classes and having our students perform solo recitals.”

Final touches are being made to the group’s first CD as NIU’s string quartet in residence. Devroye expects the quartet will release the disc in October.

“It’s a recording of four American quartet pieces by living composers,” he says. “Each piece was either commissioned by, or premiered by, us in the last five years.”

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