The Knights Release Azul with Yo-Yo Ma, Make Kennedy Center Debut, Complete Residency at Brooklyn’s BRIC, and Tour Europe This Spring

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The Knights Release Azul with Yo-Yo Ma, Make Kennedy Center Debut, Complete Residency at Brooklyn’s BRIC, and Tour Europe This Spring

Groundbreaking, Brooklyn-based orchestral collective The Knights takes to the sky this spring, releasing the celestial-themed Azul on Warner Classics on March 31 with special guest, beloved cellist and frequent collaborator Yo-Yo Ma. The group also wraps up a year-long residency at Broolyn’s BRIC, with a concert ranging from Mozart and Haydn to Philip Glass and Gabriel Kahane, and debuts at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center as part of “SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras.” Their spring season is rounded out with a European tour, including six performances at Aix-en-Provence, France’s Easter Festival and three dates across Germany including the new Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.

New Album, Azul, with Yo-Yo Ma

Azul, the Spanish word for “blue,” is the title of the contemplative cello concerto by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov that forms the centerpiece of the new album. The work was commissioned for Yo-Yo Ma by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with which he gave its premiere in 2006; this album marks its first studio recording. With influences including Western classical, tango, klezmer, gypsy and Middle Eastern music, and inspirations that range from the poetry of Pablo Neruda to the blue sky above Tanglewood, the piece was described by the Washington Post as “long, thoughtful, different, and real: anything but an easy star showpiece.”

The four other works on Azul continue the celestial theme. Ascending Bird was written by The Knights’ co-Artistic Director and violinist, Colin Jacobsen, with Iranian composer Siamak Aghaei. Another of their collaborative pieces, the Concerto for Santur (Persian dulcimer), Violin, & Orchestra, was recorded with Aghaei as a soloist on The Knights’ first Warner Classics album, the ground beneath our feet. Yo-Yo Ma’s cello provides a sonorous locum for the customary soprano on the poignant, soaring “Song to the Moon” from Dvořák’s opera Rusalka; and the brief, whimsical, haunting movement “Leo” from Tierkreis (“Zodiac”) by visionary avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen is heard in an arrangement for septet by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw. Completing the roster is a work that takes its lead from the Chinese zodiac, the Suite from Run Rabbit Run, which The Knights’ horn-player, Michael P. Atkinson, has extracted and adapted from Sufjan Stevens’ ambitious 2001 album, Enjoy Your Rabbit. Stevens’ original music was described by BBC News as “a jagged, electronic miasma of bleeps and loops,” and Atkinson’s arrangement makes unusual demands on its ensemble of string players, who are called upon to imitate computerized effects with both their instruments and their voices.

Conductor and cellist Eric Jacobsen, Colin’s brother and co-Artistic Director, also serves as conductor of The Knights, and the brothers have been associated with Ma since the beginning of his ground-breaking multicultural Silk Road Project in 2000. The 18-time Grammy Award-winning cellist has praised The Knights ensemble for its “vibrant, energetic, collaborative culture” offering “a chamber music experience in orchestral form.” Colin Jacobsen sums up Azul’s vision and philosophy as:

The music engages with the question of perspective — of looking at the cold beauty of the stars from below, juxtaposed with a birds-eye view of the tumultuous pulsation of life in all its warm messiness down here on the surface … Yo-Yo often talks about how the arts can encourage the capacity for imagination, and that imaginative aptitude is an essential quality, whether one is pursuing the arts, business, politics or any other endeavor. If we collectively and individually don’t have the capacity to imagine a better world, how can we even begin to address the challenges that we face?”

Kennedy Center Debut, Big Ears Festival, BRIC residency, and European Tour

In their second year of partnership with Brooklyn’s BRIC, The Knights complete a year-long residency at the multi-disciplinary arts venue on April 9 and 13. After releasing an EP in October 2016 with Brooklyn composer Gabriel Kahane of his song cycle Crane Palimpsest, the group completes its 2016-17 home season at BRIC with a concert featuring the New York premiere of Kahane’s Freight & Salvage. The work was commissioned by The Knights in 2015 with Boston-based chamber orchestra A Far Cry and the Orlando Philharmonic, where Eric Jacobsen also serves as Music Director. On the same program is music by Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Stravinsky and Philip Glass. At another cutting-edge Brooklyn venue, National Sawdust, The Knights join Sarah Kirkland Snider on March 14 for the New York premiere of Snider’s hour-long, thirteen-part song cycle, Unremembered, along with soloists David Stith, Shara Nova and Padma Newsome. The cycle, recorded by the same forces in 2015 and released on New Amsterdam Records, will then be reprised at the Big Ears Music Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee on March 23.

The Knights head to Washington, D.C. to make their Kennedy Center debut on April 1 as part of the inaugural SHIFT Festival, a showcase for North American orchestras of all sizes, including the Atlanta and North Carolina Symphonies and the Boulder Philharmonic. The Knights will perform with another friend and frequent collaborator, composer and 2009 Rome Prize-winner Lisa Bielawa, who also serves as artistic director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus. Joined by the chorus, The Knights perform new works by Bielawa and Grawemeyer Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis, both of whom they collaborated with for world premieres last season in a concert that was part of the citywide NY Phil Biennial.

Rounding out The Knights’ spring schedule is a tour to France and Germany. In Aix-en-Provence they give six performances as part of the city’s Easter Festival, including one in which pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and violinist Renaud Capuçon join them for Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin and Piano in D minor. The group also performs an Easter Sunday concert at Aix Cathedral, and three free outdoor concerts at locations around the city. The final concert, at the Conservatoire Darius Milhaud, will feature celebrated pianist Bertrand Chamayou in Liszt’s Malédiction, plus Kahane’s Freight & Salvage, as well as Ascending Bird (as recorded on Azul). The orchestra then appears in three concert halls across Germany, culminating at the spectacular new Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, with acoustics designed by Yasuhisa Toyota, the mastermind behind Tokyo’s celebrated Suntory Hall. The Economist calls Hamburg’s latest attraction “a stunning achievement that will make the Hanseatic city a must-see cultural destination.” Joining The Knights for the three German performances will be world-renowned pipa virtuoso Wu Man, who was named Musical America’s 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year, the first player of a non-Western instrument to be so honored. Their program features music of Bach, Boccherini, Haydn, Stravinsky, Tan Dun and Steve Reich.

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The Knights: Azul with Yo-Yo Ma

Tracklist:

SIAMAK AGHAEI (1974- ) & COLIN JACOBSEN (1978- )

Ascending Bird

ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)

Rusalka: “Song to the Moon” (arr. Jesse Diener-Bennett)

Yo-Yo Ma, cello

OSVALDO GOLIJOV (1960- )

Azul – Cello Concerto

I. Paz Sulfúrica

II. Silencio

III. Transit

IV. Yrushalem

Yo-Yo Ma, cello

Michael Ward-Bergeman, hyper-accordion

Jamey Haddad, percussion

Cyro Baptista, percussion

KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN (1928-2007)

Tierkreis: “Leo” (arr. Caroline Shaw)

SUFJAN STEVENS (1975- )

Suite from Run Rabbit Run (arr. Michael P. Atkinson)

I. Year of the Ox

II. Enjoy Your Rabbit

III. Year of Our Lord

IV. Year of the Boar

The Knights: 2016-17 engagements

March 14

Brooklyn, NY

National Sawdust

Sarah Kirkland Snider: Unremembered

David Stith, soloist

Shara Nova, soloist

Padma Newsome, soloist

March 23

Knoxville, TN

Big Ears Festival

Sarah Kirkland Snider: Unremembered

David Stith, soloist

Shara Nova, soloist

Padma Newsome, soloist

March 31

Washington, D.C.

SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras

Off-site concert at The Hamilton with Christina Courtin

 

April 1

Washington, D.C.

The Kennedy Center

SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras

With the San Francisco Girls Chorus

Brahms: Psalm 13, “Herr, wie lange,” Op. 27

Lisa Bielawa: My Outstretched Hand

Aaron Jay Kernis: Excerpts from Remembering the Sea (Se Souvenant de la Mer)

Vivaldi: Gloria in D major, RV 589

The Knights: the ground beneath our feet 

April 9, 2pm: Family Matinee

April 13, 8pm: Evening Concert

Brooklyn, NY

BRIC

On the Shoulders of Giants”

Glass: String Quartet No. 2, “Company”

Schubert (arr. Ljova): “Gretchen am Spinnrade”

Kahane: Freight & Salvage

Mozart: Symphony No. 29 in A major, K.201 (186a)

Haydn: Symphony No. 80 in D minor

Stravinsky: Concerto in E-flat, “Dumbarton Oaks” (exclusive to Family Matinee)

April 16-21

Aix-en-Provence, France

Festival de Paques (Easter Festival)

April 16

Saint Sauveur Cathedral

Easter Sunday performance

April 17

Aix-En-Provence City Center

Free outdoor concert

April 19

Allées Provençales and Place Forbin

Two free outdoor concerts

April 20

Grand Théâtre de Provence

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048

Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin and Piano in D minor (with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano; Renaud Capuçon, violin)

Stravinsky: Concerto in E-flat, “Dumbarton Oaks”

Mozart: Symphony No. 29 in A, K. 201 (186a)

April 21

Conservatoire Darius Milhaud

Schubert (arr. Ljova): “Gretchen am Spinnrade”   

Glass: String Quartet No. 2, “Company”    

Liszt: Malédiction (with Bertrand Chamayou, piano)

Kahane: Freight & Salvage

Haydn: Symphony No. 80 in D minor    

Jacobsen/Aghaei: Ascending Bird     

April 24

Friedrichshafen, Germany

Graf-Zeppelin Haus

Reich: Duet for two violins & strings   

Tan Dun: Concerto for String Orchestra and Pipa

Stravinsky: Concerto in E-flat, “Dumbarton Oaks”

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048  

Haydn: Symphony No. 80 in D minor    

Boccherini: Fandango for String Orchestra from Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major, G.448

Wu Man, Pipa

April 25

Heidelberg, Germany

Kongresshaus Stadthalle

Reich: Duet for two violins & strings   

Tan Dun: Concerto for String Orchestra and Pipa

Stravinsky: Concerto in E-flat, “Dumbarton Oaks”

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048  

Haydn: Symphony No. 80 in D minor    

Boccherini: Fandango for String Orchestra from Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major, G.448

Wu Man, pipa

April 27

Hamburg, Germany

Elbphilharmonie

Reich: Duet for two violins & strings

Tan Dun: Concerto for String Orchestra and Pipa

Stravinsky: Concerto in E-flat, “Dumbarton Oaks”

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048  

Haydn: Symphony No. 80 in D minor    

Boccherini: Fandango for String Orchestra from Guitar quintet No. 4 in D major G.448

Wu Man, pipa

 

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© 21C Media Group, March 2017

 

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