March 5, 2019

Named one of “19 for ’19” by WQXR, The Knights brought down the house with their “electrifying brand of music-making” (WQXR) at the station’s launch event for the initiative in January. Now the orchestral collective reunites with one of its most trusted collaborators, Grammy Award-winning Syrian clarinetist-composer Kinan Azmeh, for concerts at Washington’s Dumbarton Oaks (March 31 & April 1) and New York’s Carnegie Hall (April 3), where their characteristically wide-ranging program showcases the American premiere of Canons and Overtones by Ireland’s Donnacha Dennehy and the DC and New York premieres of Azmeh’s own Concertino grosso, both Carnegie Hall co-commissions. Long celebrated as “one of Brooklyn’s sterling cultural products” (New Yorker), The Knights also complete their third consecutive season-long residency at Brooklyn’s BRIC with an interactive Family Show (March 30).

When the ensemble embarked on a national tour with Kinan Azmeh last season, the Los Angeles Times admired the clarinetist’s ability to “seduce with a rare intimacy and explode in ecstasy.” Drawing on The Knights’ trademark “voracious musical appetite” (Chicago Classical Review), their upcoming collaboration combines the Concertino grosso Azmeh wrote for the ensemble with a Vivaldi sinfonia, a chamber symphony by Grawemeyer Award-winner Thomas Adès, Entr’acte by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, and daring new takes on music from Middle Eastern, Balkan, and klezmer sources. At Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, this program will be crowned by the American premiere of Canons and Overtones by Donnacha Dennehy, whose music has been described as “a potent synthesis of the pulsing energy of minimalism with the harmonic richness of the spectralists … [and] the traditions of his native Ireland” (The Guardian). This will be replaced by “Wedding” from Azmeh’s Suite for Improvisor and Orchestra at Dumbarton Oaks, where, after one of The Knights’ previous appearances, the Washington Post marveled:

“It is a joy to see such deeply committed musicmaking. … Every player is viscerally caught up in the shape of every phrase. That they suggest a rock band is not accidental, but the precision of balance and ensemble bespeaks the highest level of musicianship and preparation.”

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This spring lineup follows a string of recent successes for The Knights, who recently completed a 13-city tour of Europe with another regular collaborator, Grammy-nominated mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital. Fall brought two important multidisciplinary premieres in New York, where the collective anchored the first New York presentation of Glass Handel, an operatic installation headlined and created by countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, and the first American performances of William Kentridge’s post-colonial World War I sensation, The Head and the Load. Staged at the Park Avenue Armory, this was selected as a New York TimesCritic’s Pick” and prompted OperaWire to declare:

“The breathtaking result is shared by the exemplar contributions of the cast of singers and the redoubtable orchestral collective The Knights.”

Alongside such key figures as Matthew Aucoin, Nicola Benedetti, Steven Isserlis, and Davoné Tines, the ensemble was also chosen as one of WQXR’s “19 for ’19: Artists to Watch in the Upcoming Year.” Launched to foster adventurous collaborations across the station’s platforms throughout the year, the initiative kicked off with a special January concert at The Greene Space in downtown Manhattan. It was The Knights who undertook the event’s final set, a rapturously received program combining original arrangements of works by Sufjan Stevens, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Astor Piazzolla with Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto, for which they were joined by pianist and fellow honoree Inon Barnatan. As WQXR put it, the collective is “New York’s – if not the world’s – most dynamic chamber ensemble.”

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The Knights: spring engagements

March 30
Brooklyn, NY
BRIC
Family Show

March 31 & April 1
Washington, DC
Dumbarton Oaks
Concerts with Kinan Azmeh, clarinet
Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte
Kinan Azmeh: “Wedding” from Suite for Improvisor and Orchestra
Kinan Azmeh: Concertino grosso (DC premiere of Carnegie Hall co-commission)
Vivaldi: Sinfonia in B minor, RV 169, “Al Santo Sepolcro”
Thomas Adès: Chamber Symphony, Op. 2
Plus arrangements, transcriptions, and original music from Middle Eastern, Balkan, and klezmer sources

April 3
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall (Zankel Hall)
Concert with Kinan Azmeh, clarinet
Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte
Donnacha Dennehy: Canons and Overtones (U.S. premiere of Carnegie Hall co-commission)
Kinan Azmeh: Concertino grosso (NY premiere of Carnegie Hall co-commission)
Vivaldi: Sinfonia in B minor, RV 169, “Al Santo Sepolcro”
Thomas Adès: Chamber Symphony, Op. 2
Plus arrangements, transcriptions, and original music from Middle Eastern, Balkan, and klezmer sources

April 14
Greenvale, NY
Tilles Center
High-school all-state string orchestra convocation

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© 21C Media Group, March 2019