January 21, 2016
Brooklyn Rider is pleased to announce the first personnel change of its ten-year history. Over the coming months, the group welcomes aboard cellist Michael Nicolas, thereby enabling present cellist and founding member Eric Jacobsen to focus more fully on his burgeoning conducting career. Nicolas, a former classmate of Jacobsen’s at New York’s Juilliard School, is an especially natural fit for the pathbreaking string quartet. As a member of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and Ensemble Ditto, the former Associate Principal Cellist of the Montreal Symphony, and an all-around “outstanding” performer (Boston Globe), Nicolas not only shares the group’s expertise, but also the no-holds-barred passion for adventurous programming and “dazzling fingers-in-every-pie versatility” (Los Angeles Times) that make up its DNA. Jacobsen, having recently launched a new tenure as Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic in addition to his existing directorship of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony and co-artistic directorship of The Knights, is grateful to leave Brooklyn Rider in such capable and compatible hands. The transition will take place all but seamlessly over the spring and summer, with the two cellists sharing upcoming dates between them and sometimes coming together to perform in tandem (as at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust on June 3), all the while continuing to offer the “Beethoven-goes-indie foray” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) at which Brooklyn Rider remains second to none.
On his time with Brooklyn Rider, Eric Jacobsen comments:
“Brooklyn Rider has been one of the greatest relationships of my life. Within its parameters, I matured as a musician, colleague, and human. After 10 years and 1000 performances, I still love and look up to my brother Colin and my musical brothers Nick and Johnny. Though leaving the quartet is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever grappled with, it’s made easier knowing that Michael Nicolas will take over. I remember being wowed by him 15 years ago when we were freshmen together at Juilliard, and my respect for him has only grown.
I have always tried to create micro-worlds that could thrive: Brooklyn Rider is, I hope, its own fertile ecosystem of creation and joy and stylistic innovation. I know that if this standard of dedication is what I want to expend, I need to focus my gaze and commit fully to being a Music/Artistic Director and Conductor. I look forward to continuing my deep friendships and musical relationships with Nick and Johnny. And even if he does continue to steal my socks, I will always play music with my brother.
Michael Nicolas responds to the announcement with his anticipation and hopes for the future:
“I’m looking forward to the musical path ahead. Being part of a string quartet is a new frontier for me, and I cannot think of any three artists with whom I’d rather attempt the journey. I suspect that Brooklyn Rider thought of me because we share such a similar musical ethos. Like the quartet, my career has taken me to new music venues all over the country and to some of the world’s greatest concert halls, and I feel at home in both kinds of settings. I can’t wait to explore the music that Brooklyn Rider will be playing in the coming season. Some of it I’m familiar with, and some will be new – that’s always exciting. It’s going to be an adventure.”
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.” Distinguished by its visionary programming and inspired, out-of-the-box collaborations, since its founding ten years ago, the game-changing group has gone from strength to strength. Equally at home in clubs and concert halls, the quartet plays venues from Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Library of Congress to Joe’s Pub, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, South by Southwest, and Japan’s hallowed Todai-ji temple. Brooklyn Rider’s musical partnerships are no less diverse, drawing on the talents of artists from star vocalists Dawn Upshaw and Anne Sofie von Otter to banjo legend Béla Fleck, singer-songwriting sensation Gabriel Kahane, leading jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman, Iranian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor, and Irish fiddler Martin Hayes. Comprising eight titles to date, with a ninth due for release next month, the group’s much-lauded discography includes Silent City, named one of Rhapsody’s best world-music albums of the last decade; Dominant Curve, chosen by NPR as one of the best of 2010; the Brooklyn Rider Almanac, a groundbreaking multi-disciplinary project for which the quartet commissioned 15 new works from composers ranging from Wilco’s Glenn Kotche to jazz icon Bill Frisell; and the upcoming The Fiction Issue with Gabriel Kahane. A public radio favorite, Brooklyn Rider has been featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, On Point, All Songs Considered, Deceptive Cadence, and All Things Considered; WNYC’s Soundcheck; and American Public Media’s A Prairie Home Companion and Performance Today; as well as on NY1 television in New York City. Having founded the Stillwater Music Festival ten years ago, Brooklyn Rider returned this past summer for a farewell residency that drew the Minnesota festival’s final season to a glorious close.
For high-resolution photos, click here.
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© 21C Media Group, January 2016
Photo: Erin Baiano