Brooklyn Rider Continues Tenth-Anniversary U.S. Tour in 2015 with Works from Hit New Almanac Album and Three World Premieres

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Brooklyn Rider Continues Tenth-Anniversary U.S. Tour in 2015 with Works from Hit New Almanac Album and Three World Premieres


The pathbreaking tastemakers of Brooklyn Rider recently scored a major critical coup with the release of the Brooklyn Rider Almanac. The centerpiece of a revolutionary new multimedia project featuring a wealth of new commissions, at its September release the album helped launch the group’s 10th-anniversary celebrations. These continue throughout the season with live touring of music from the Almanac, complete with three world premieres, at venues across the country. Brooklyn Rider gives the first live performance of Ping Pong Fumble Thaw by Wilco’s Glenn Kotche – a highlight of the new recording – at the University of California, Santa Barbara (Jan 22), and unveils a new contribution to the project by multi-instrumentalist and composer Tyondai Braxton at the Washington Performing Arts Society (March 21).


At Carolina Performances (March 28), the quartet presents the world premiere of a new work by John Luther Adams. The quartet also showcases Almanac selections at live events in Minneapolis (Jan 18), Boston’s Celebrity Series (March 20), Northampton, MA (May 2), and at the Savannah Music Festival (April 1), during a residency that also features reunions with two favorite collaborators: kemancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor (March 30) and banjo legend Béla Fleck (March 31). The game-changing group rounds out the season with a series of surprise Pop-Up Concerts around Tallahassee, FL (April 7 & 8) and appearances at Penn State (April 14), Louisville (April 16), and the Dallas Opera (April 26).


In the cross-disciplinary spirit of Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”), the legendary European artistic collective from which the quartet takes its name, each of the new commissions on the Brooklyn Rider Almanac was inspired by an artistic muse of relatively recent memory, from Stravinsky to “Godfather of Soul” James Brown, Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner, and iconic choreographer Mark Morris. Most of them best known for their work outside the classical world, in genres ranging from jazz to indie-rock, the featured composers are Christina Courtin, Bill Frisell, Gonzalo Grau, Vijay Iyer, Ethan Iverson, Carla Kihlstedt, Rubin Kodheli, Glenn Kotche, Dana Lyn, Padma Newsome, Aoife O’Donovan, Greg Saunier, Daniel Cords, and the quartet’s own Colin Jacobsen.


The response to the Almanac has already been sensational. iTunes declared: “Crackling with creative electricity, this gorgeous recording is a satisfying, thought-provoking musical triumph.” Hailing the album as “both an all-over-the-map stylistic tour and a treatise on present-day quartet writing,” the Boston Globe concluded: “It’s also a lot of fun, and Brooklyn Rider sounds passionately at home in everything.” “Almanac presents a broad palette – and Brooklyn Rider proves adept at using it to paint in sound,” agreed Wondering Sound. As NPR Music recognized,


“Brooklyn Rider is one of today’s most technically accomplished string quartets, full stop. Its superb playing is matched only by the thought, commitment and inspiration its members pour into projects like this one – making the string quartet not a relic of times long gone, but a vessel for the shape of music to come.”


Several outlets singled out Ping Pong Fumble Thaw (2014) by Glenn Kotche – familiar as the drummer for Grammy Award-winning alt-rockers Wilco – as one of the Almanac’s many highlights; as Wondering Sound points out, “Kotche uses pizzicato and even more percussive effects (unsurprisingly, for a guy best known as the drummer in Wilco) to create a strong rhythmic drive that suddenly melts into long, bowed overtones.” Kotche’s inspiration was the minimal electronic music of German composer Jens Massel. He explains:


“It’s highly rhythmic, yet sparse with minimal grooves ebbing and flowing over evocative sound environments. Being a drummer, I am of course drawn to the grooves but also love the sounds Massel uses and combines to create these ambient electronic percussion songs. This is electronic music that somehow feels very human and organic.

“I decided to write a solo drumkit piece inspired by some of these more high-energy recordings and then used that as the blueprint for this string quartet for Brooklyn Rider. The title is comprised of words taken from Massel’s record titles that also work as descriptors for the four distinct sections of the piece.

“The opening section, ‘Ping,’ is exclusively pizzicato and full of rhythmic interplay. ‘Thaw’ is comprised of long arco swells that directly contrast the preceding material. ‘Pong’ features woody battuto rhythms, with the quartet acting more as drummers than string players. ‘Fumble’ is the transition back into the hands of the main pizzicato theme and ultimate resolution of the piece.”


This winter, Brooklyn Rider gives the first live performance of Ping Pong Fumble Thaw on a program of Almanac selections at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A second world premiere follows at DC’s Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, where the group’s Almanac selections are highlighted by a new commission from Tyondai Braxton, former frontman of avant-rock band Battles, who recently made waves with a pair of collaborations with Philip Glass. Braxton found inspiration for this work from Columbia University composer and theorist Fred Lerdahl.


Like Kotche and Braxton, Brooklyn Rider is no stranger to genre-bending success, and it was at the same Washington, DC venue last year that the Washington Post discovered:


“A wildly eclectic audience packed the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on Saturday night as the classical-music cognoscenti sat cheek-by-aging-jowl with high school students and hipsters. But that’s to be expected in a concert by Brooklyn Rider, a young, adventurous string quartet devoted to keeping the traditional quartet repertoire alive while dragging the form – kicking and screaming, if necessary – into this century’s anything-goes postmodern world.”


The quartet reunites with another Almanac composer at the Schubert Club in Minneapolis, where Greg Saunier – drummer for the indie-rock band Deerhoof and creator of the Almanac’s Quartet, Parts One & Two – joins the ensemble as special guest. Along with those by Bill Frisell, Ethan Iverson, Vijay Iyer, Dana Lyn, and Padma Newsome, Saunier’s work is on the program once again when Brooklyn Rider returns to Chapel Hill to present music from the Almanac, along with a world premiere by John Luther Adams, on the next leg of its multi-year residency at the University of North Carolina. The tour also stops at Café 939 at the Berklee College of Music, for an event presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston, before drawing to a close at Music in Deerfield in Northampton, MA, where Brooklyn Rider – always equally masterful in traditional repertoire, thanks to what the New Yorker recognizes as its members’ “deep classical training” – juxtaposes Almanac selections with quartet classics by Haydn, Janácek, and Schnittke.


As the Seattle Times recently remarked, “For more than a decade, Brooklyn Rider … has been called the future of chamber music, with their embrace of new compositions and envelope-pushing collaborations with other global artists.” At its upcoming residency at Georgia’s Savannah Music Festival, the group not only continues pioneering new music from the Almanac, but also rekindles the creative partnerships behind two previous recordings. It was with Grammy Award-winning banjoist Béla Fleck that Brooklyn Rider recently issued The Impostor on the Deutsche Grammophon / Mercury Classics label and undertook an extensive U.S. tour, and with Kayhan Kalhor – leading exponent of the Persian kamancheh and a founding member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble – that the group released the bestselling 2008 album Silent City, pronounced “phenomenal” by WQXR.


Brooklyn Rider also gives a series of free Pop-Up Concerts in Tallahassee, FL this spring. Taking place during Tallahassee Music Week, these surprise appearances around the city will be announced nearer the time on social media, harnessing the foursome’s enviable gift for audience engagement. As Steve Smith put it in Time Out New York, Brooklyn Rider’s “down-to-earth demeanor … demystifies contemporary classical music and invites everyone into the tent.


Further details of Brooklyn Rider’s upcoming engagements are provided below, and more information is available at the artists’ web site: For high-resolution photos, click here.




Brooklyn Rider: upcoming engagements


Jan 18

Minneapolis, MN

Schubert Club Mix

Aria Minneapolis

With drummer Greg Saunier of Deerhoof

Selections from the Brooklyn Rider Almanac


Jan 22

Santa Barbara, CA

University of California, Santa Barbara

Hahn Hall

Selections from the Brooklyn Rider Almanac

Includes world premiere of Ping Pong Fumble Thaw by Glenn Kotche of Wilco


March 20

Boston, MA

Celebrity Series of Boston

Café 939 at the Berklee College of Music

Selections from the Brooklyn Rider Almanac


March 21

Washington, DC

Washington Performing Arts Society

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

Selections from the Brooklyn Rider Almanac

Includes world premiere by Tyondai Braxton


March 28

Chapel Hill, NC

Carolina Performances

Includes world premiere by John Luther Adams

Selections from the Brooklyn Rider Almanac, including:

Bill Frisell: John Steinbeck

Ethan Iverson: Morris Dance

Vijay Iyer: Dig The Stay

Dana Lyn: Maintenance Music

Padma Newsome: Gaps and Gorges

Greg Saunier: Quartet, Parts One & Two


March 30

Savannah, GA

Savannah Music Festival

Lucas Theater

With Kayhan Kalhor, kemancheh (spike fiddle)


March 31

Savannah, GA

Savannah Music Festival

Lucas Theater

With Béla Fleck, banjo


April 1

Savannah, GA

Savannah Music Festival

Trinity United Methodist Church

Selections from the Brooklyn Rider Almanac


April 7 & 8

Tallahassee, FL

Tallahassee Music Week

Opening Nights Performing Arts

Pop-Up Concerts


April 14

State College, PA

Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Schwab Auditorium


April 16

Louisville, KY

Louisville Chamber Music Society

Clifton Center Theater


April 26

Dallas, TX

Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Foundation

Winspear Opera House Recital Series


May 2

Northampton, MA

Music in Deerfield

Sweeney Concert Hall at Smith College

Haydn: Quartet in G minor, Op. 74, No. 3, “The Rider”

Schnittke: Canon in memoriam Igor Stravinsky

Janácek: Quartet No. 1, “Kreutzer Sonata”

Selections from the Brooklyn Rider Almanac


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