Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pushing the Boundaries of Modern String Performance - The Brooklyn Rider Quartet and The Knights Chamber Orchestra

By Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
and Stefan Aune

The Brooklyn Rider Quartet, composed of violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords, and cellist Eric Jacobsen, is a modern string quartet that manages to stay rooted in the classic quartet repertoire while pushing boundaries through creative programming and collaboration. All the members are veterans of Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, with which they have recorded numerous records, performed all over the world, and participated in an invigorating blend of music and multiculturalism that encompasses traditions from all over the world. With Brooklyn Rider, they combine classical training with the sort of DIY work ethic more commonly found in the punk underground, touring constantly, putting out their own records, and collaborating with like minded artists across different mediums.

The Brooklyn Rider has performed everywhere from concert halls to clubs to pubs. Their particularly busy schedule in recent years has taken them to the Cologne Philharmonie, the American Academy in Rome, the Malmo Festival in Sweden, and the SXSW Festival in Texas, where they were the only classical group invited to perform amidst a who's who of punk, hardcore, indie rock, noise, and hip-hop. They performed at the US Open tennis tournament, toured Europe with Persian musician Kayhan Kalhor, and toured North America several times. This sort of grinding performance schedule seems more reminiscent of hardcore punk band Black Flag's "get in the van" tour philosophy than your average string quartet, but it goes to show that hard work and taking matters into your own hands can pay off in the classical work just as much as anywhere else. Be sure to keep an eye on the Brooklyn Rider website for up to date tour information, as they are probably coming to a city near you sometime soon.

Brooklyn Rider
CC BY-SA 4.0
In addition to this active performing schedule, Brooklyn Rider has found the time to release a CD of Philip Glass' string quartet works, and two other full length CD's, Dominant Curve and Passport, on the label In A Circle Records, which was founded by violinist Johnny Gandelsman in 2008. They have worked closely with composers Derek Bermel, Lisa Bielawa, Ljova, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, Jenny Scheinman and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, and they host an online art gallery highlighting works by their friends, the proceeds of which are used to fuel future projects. The Quartet has also held residencies at Williams College, MacPhail Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Texas A&M University, and Denison University. From teaching to releasing music, Brooklyn Rider does it all, and if they maintain this impressive pace they are sure to leave behind a wealth of excellent music and memorable performances.

Brooklyn Rider's record Dominant Curve

In addition to Brooklyn Rider, brothers Colin and Eric Jacobsen are founding members and artistic directors of The Knights, an orchestra located in New York that shares a similar spirit of collaboration and hard work with Brooklyn Rider. Boasting several full length CD's, as well as numerous national and international performances, The Knights has grown out of informal chamber music reading parties into a well respected musical unit that maintains a refreshing sense of fun, backed up by an impressive array of artistic talent. Check out The Knights website here, which includes a schedule of upcoming performances and recordings.

The Knights Chamber Orchestra

The music world is lucky to have groups like Brooklyn  Rider and The Knights - both as an example for what hard work and self reliance can achieve, as well as for their artistic and collaborative work that is sure to enrich the classical music landscape for years to come. Be sure to check out both of their websites, and don't miss them if they come through your town.
Here's Yo-Yo Ma in a special video - We Are The Knights

Brooklyn Rider Website
The Knights Chamber Orchestra Website

Are you a string musician or interested in becoming one? Take a look at our Fine Violins, Violas, and Cellos!

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