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Brooklyn Rider: uniting new and old in new season

Hailed by Strings magazine as “the future of chamber music,” Brooklyn Rider continues to break new ground this season. Fall sees the game-changing string quartet “Make It New” at the University of North Carolina’s “Rite of Spring at 100” celebration and beyond, pairing new commissions from John Zorn, Shara Worden, and the group’s own Colin Jacobsen with the music of Stravinsky and Bartók. In the New Year, “The Brooklyn Rider Almanac, the ensemble’s ongoing commissioning and programming project, taps talent from across the musical spectrum for a wealth of new music to debut at the quartet’s upcoming Dartmouth College residency. Additional 2012-13 season highlights include a Gabriel Kahane premiere at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall; a new recording project with banjo legend Béla Fleck; and extensive touring that encompasses a return to Asia.
Offering true new-music chops, genre-bending innovation, and risk-taking moxie – all while remaining equally at home in the classics – Brooklyn Rider is, as NPR observes, “famous for stretching boundaries well beyond the point where lesser groups would snap.” Likened by Vice magazine to “motocross daredevils who never screw up a stunt,” its members may take credit for helping to reinvent and revitalize the chamber music experience.
This fall, Brooklyn Rider fulfills the modernist injunction to “Make It New” with the launch of a characteristically bold new program of that name, juxtaposing masterpieces by two giants of 20th-century innovation – Stravinsky and Bartók – with new music exemplifying innovation in the present. Brooklyn Rider presents “Make It New” at the University of North Carolina’s Rite of Spring at 100, a season-long project which celebrates the centenary of Stravinsky’s iconic ballet score with the help of such luminaries as Yo-Yo Ma, Yefim Bronfman, and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. On November 16, alongside Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet and Bartók’s String Quartet No. 2, Brooklyn Rider will present the world premieres of three major new commissions: from MacArthur Fellow and iconoclastic polymath John Zorn; My Brightest Diamond singer/songwriter Shara Worden; and the quartet’s own violinist – “one of the most interesting figures on the classical music scene” (Washington Post) – Colin Jacobsen, whose multidisciplinary new piece features choreography by two-time Jerome Robbins Foundation New Essential Works-recipient John Heginbotham.
To round out the program, which crowns the second leg of the group’s three-year residency at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brooklyn Rider will also reprise a new work by crossover sensation Gabriel Kahane (dubbed “one of the most prodigious talents we’ve got” by the New York Times). That new work, The Fiction Issue, will be given its world premiere performance by Brooklyn Rider at Carnegie Hall on October 25, in the composer/singer-songwriter’s Zankel Hall recital. Elements of “Make It New” will also appear throughout the group’s fall tour, which takes in stops in Amherst, MA; Beacon, NY; Winter Park, FL (which includes the world premiere of a new work by Vijay Iyer); Fairfield, CT; Burlington, VT; Kahului, HI; and Honolulu, HI.
The quartet’s name pays tribute to the cross-disciplinary vision of Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”), the European Expressionist collective that numbered Kandinsky and Schoenberg among its prime movers. In the same spirit, the quartet’s ongoing programming initiative “The Brooklyn Rider Almanac” tips its hat to “Der Blaue Reiter Almanach,” which – a full century before – celebrated the cross-pollination of music and art. In the new “Almanac,” the quartet commissions composers from all walks of musical life – from indie-rock to jazz and classical – to write short pieces for string quartet that take as their inspiration different artistic media of the past half-century, from the visual arts to music and dance. Many of the works due to premiere this season were commissioned by Dartmouth College, and it is there, during the quartet’s January residency, that they will be unveiled before figuring prominently in the group’s spring tour programming. This year’s contributions are drawn from a pool of talent as rich as it is diverse, with compositions by Swiss jazz/funk keyboardist Nik Bärtsch, Padma Newsome of The Clogs (formerly of The National,) Greg Saunier of Deerhoof, Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus, legendary jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, and up-and-coming composers from Brooklyn Rider’s own circle of friends and collaborators in New York City.
On the road again in 2013, Brooklyn Rider couples recently-premiered works from the “Almanac” with fresh takes on tried-and-true repertory staples – like Mendelssohn’s First String Quartet and Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131 – for stops at Chicago’s Mandel Hall, Atlanta’s Schwartz Center, and in Washington, DC; Rochester, NY; North Andover, MA; and Eugene, OR. Several of these concerts will showcase the quartet’s own group composition, Seven Steps, which – paired with Beethoven’s Op. 131, the masterpiece that inspired it – was released earlier this year on In a Circle Records, the independent label founded by Brooklyn Rider violinist Johnny Gandelsman. Time Out Chicago pronounced it “a wonderful record to challenge seasoned listeners and embrace hesitant newcomers,” while Cleveland Classical called it Brooklyn Rider’s “most thought-provoking and adventuresome release to date … an album that should be on everybody’s CD shelf.” In April, the group makes a second trip to Asia, with appearances in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taipei.  In another propitious crossover collaboration this season, the quartet joins 14-time Grammy Award-winner Béla Fleck in the studio to record his compostion for banjo and string quartet.
Further details of Brooklyn Rider’s upcoming engagements are provided below, and more information is available at the quartet’s web site:
Brooklyn Rider: 2012–13 engagements
Oct 20
Amherst, MA
Music in Deerfield
Oct 21
Beacon, NY
Howland Cultural Center
Howland Chamber Music Circle
Oct 25
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall, Zankel Hall
With Gabriel Kahane
Oct 28
Kahului, HI
Castle Theatre
Maui Arts & Cultural Center
Oct 30
Honolulu, HI
Doris Duke Theatre
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Nov 1-4
Winter Park, FL
Bach Festival
Bach Festival Society of Winter Park
World premiere of new work by Vijay Iyer
Nov 9
Fairfield, CT
Quick Center for the Arts
Nov 10
Burlington, VT
Flynn Space
Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
Nov 12 
Chapel Hill, NC
UNC Residency
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Nov 16
Chapel Hill, NC
Rite of Spring at 100”
“Make It New” with Gabriel Kahane and Shara Worden
Includes world premieres by John Zorn, Shara Worden, and Colin Jacobsen
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jan 18
Hanover, NH
Dartmouth Residency
Hopkins Center
Dartmouth College
Jan 20
Chapel Hill, NC
UNC Residency
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jan 25
Chicago, IL
Mandel Hall
University of Chicago Presents
Jan 26
Washington, DC
Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
Washington Performing Arts Society
Jan 29
Rochester, NY
Kilbourn Hall
Eastman School of Music
Jan 31
North Andover, MA
Rogers Center
Merrimack College
April 7
Eugene, OR
Beall Concert Hall
Oregon Bach Festival / Chamber Series
April 12
Atlanta, GA
Schwartz Center
April 17-19
Hong Kong, China
Jockey Club Amphitheatre
Premiere Performances of Hong Kong
April 20
Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei National Concert Hall
April 25-28
Macao, China
May 5
New York, NY
Abrons Arts Center at Henry Street Settlement
Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert

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