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The Knights at Carnegie Hall and More, in Season of Premieres and Collaborations with Avi Avital, Kinan Azmeh, Anthony Roth Costanzo and William Kentridge

The Knights remain dedicated to defying boundaries, revitalizing the concert experience, and engaging new audiences this season. Fall brings two important multidisciplinary premieres in New York, where the groundbreaking orchestral collective anchors the first American performances of William Kentridge’s The Head and the Load, a sensation when it premiered in London last month, and the first New York presentation of Glass Handel, an operatic installation headlined and created by countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo. The orchestra also reunites with two trusted collaborators, joining Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh for concerts at Washington’s Dumbarton Oaks and New York’s Carnegie Hall before partnering with Israeli mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital on a 14-city European tour. Closer to home, the collective serves as 2018-19 Artists in Residence at New York’s Tilles Center and returns to Brooklyn’s BRIC for its third consecutive season-long residency. Hailed by the New Yorker as “one of Brooklyn’s sterling cultural products,” The Knights are true originals; as Hamburg’s Abendblatt put it, they “playfully combine early music with avant-garde, great classics with world music – constantly blowing audiences away.”

Multidisciplinary premieres in New York: The Head and the Load and Glass Handel

Through the many facets of his wide-ranging career, South African artist William Kentridge combines the poetic with the political, offering critical examinations of colonialism, totalitarianism, and the aftermath of apartheid. Commissioned by New York’s Park Avenue Armory and 14–18 NOW, the UK’s arts program for the First World War Centenary, The Head and the Load takes its title from a traditional Ghanaian proverb, “The head and the load are the troubles of the neck.” In this new work, Kentridge shines a light on the long-suppressed story of the hundreds of thousands of African porters and carriers who served in British, French and German forces during the First World War. As much a performance piece as an installation, it features an international ensemble cast of singers, dancers, and other performers; a chorus of mechanized gramophones; film projections and shadow play; and, most notably, an original score that draws on a wide range of musical traditions, by the artist’s longtime collaborator, leading South African composer Philip Miller, with co-composer Thuthuka Sibisi and orchestrations by the Knights’ own Michael Atkinson.

Members of The Knights graced the world premiere of this major new work at London’s Tate Modern last month, where it drew five-star reviews from the London Evening Standard, which declared it “a masterpiece”; The Independent, which found it “electrifying”; and The Telegraph, which confessed: “Like everyone else there I was utterly engrossed and fabulously transported.” Now, after reprising Kentridge’s collaborative creation at northwest Germany’s Ruhrtriennale earlier this month, The Knights look forward to taking part in its North American premiere, with thirteen performances in eleven days at New York’s Park Avenue Armory (Dec 4-15).

Opera meets art, fashion, dance, and film in Glass Handel, an immersive and boundary-breaking new show that makes its New York premiere in four performances at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine (Nov 26–27) after appearing in Philadelphia in September. This hour-long interdisciplinary installation will be headlined and curated by star countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, who sings the music of Baroque master George Frideric Handel and living legend Philip Glass with the support of The Knights under the baton of their co-founding conductor, Eric Jacobsen, “an interpretive dynamo” (New York Times). During the performance, audience members will be taken on different paths through the expansive performance space, discovering a visual feast, with live painting on a giant canvas by fine artist (and Kanye West favorite) George Condo; ballet dancers David Hallberg and Patricia Delgado in choreography by 2018 Tony Award-winner Justin Peck; costumes by Raf Simons, Chief Creative Officer of Calvin Klein; and operatic music videos by filmmakers ranging from Merchant Ivory’s James Ivory, winner of a 2018 Academy Award, to Mark Romanek, best-known for his collaborations with Beyoncé, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, and Taylor Swift. Created with avant-garde fashion/art company Visionaire and producer Cath Brittan, and co-produced by Opera Philadelphia with Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, Glass Handel promises to be a wild ride.

Collaborations with Kinan Azmeh in U.S. and Avi Avital in Europe

It was after one of The Knights’ previous appearances at Dumbarton Oaks that the Washington Post was moved to marvel:

“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.”

Now the collective returns, both to the Washington series (March 31 & April 1) and to Carnegie’s Zankel Hall (April 3), in the company of Grammy Award-winning Syrian clarinetist-composer Kinan Azmeh, who showed himself “able to seduce with a rare intimacy and explode in ecstasy” (Los Angeles Times) when they toured the U.S. together last season. Showcasing the U.S. premiere of a new work by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy and the DC and New York premieres of Azmeh’s own Concertino Grosso, both Carnegie Hall co-commissions, The Knights’ characteristically wide-ranging program also comprises a Vivaldi sinfonia, a chamber symphony by Thomas Adès, Entr’acte by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, and daring new takes on music from the Balkans and the Middle East.

Last season’s U.S. tour also featured Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital, with whom The Knights head to Europe next February. The first mandolin soloist to be nominated for a classical Grammy Award, Avital – known for his “rare grace, guts, flair and daring” (The Times of London) – is one of the foremost ambassadors for his instrument. The upcoming European tour takes them to the Berlin Konzerthaus, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Zurich Tonhalle, Vienna Musikverein, and ten more high-profile destinations across Germany, Poland, Austria, and Switzerland. At each performance, Avital joins The Knights for music spanning more than three centuries, from Jean-Féry Rebel to Thomas Adès, by way of Rameau, Bach, Beethoven, and arrangements, transcriptions, and original music from klezmer, Balkan, and Middle Eastern sources (Feb 8-27). As the Chicago Classical Review notes, “The Knights seem to have found a sweet spot with programs that meld the familiar and novel, giving their fan base a taste of discovery with each performance.”

In residence at Brooklyn’s BRIC and Long Island’s Tilles Center

With the support of a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Knights have established a special partnership with BRIC, the multidisciplinary venue in the heart of downtown Brooklyn. With the ongoing goal of connecting with their community and growing orchestral music within the borough, they now return for their third consecutive home season, which will include multiple family-friendly events spaced throughout 2018-19. This year, for the first time, they also serve as 2018-19 Artists in Residence at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Long Island.

Highlighting both residencies is “Leonard Bernstein and Walt Whitman: American Originals,” which The Knights debut at BRIC’s opening-night event (Oct 27) and reprise the next day at the Tilles Center (Oct 28). This themed program celebrates two milestone artistic anniversaries – Bernstein at 100 and Walt Whitman at 200 – with an evening combining the iconic bel canto arias with which the poet was obsessed and musical settings of his own texts with excerpts from Candide and West Side Story. The second half of the program, Manuel de Falla’s Master Peter’s Puppet Show, depicts a comedic episode from Don Quixote with music by De Falla and live painting and stop-motion animation by Brooklyn-based Syrian-Armenian artist Kevork Mourad. When they premiered this collaborative concept together three years ago at Tanglewood, the Berkshire Edge exclaimed: “Did it ever deliver!All the Knights gave their all, and the crowd bought every story, and cheered.”


To download high-resolution photos, click here.


The Knights: 2018-19 engagements

Oct 1 & 2
Greenvale, NY
Tilles Center
Residency events

Oct 7
Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn Public Library
Chamber ensemble performance

Oct 27m
Brooklyn, NY
BRIC House Ballroom
Family Matinee

Oct 27
Brooklyn, NY
BRIC House: Opening Night
“Bernstein & Whitman: American Originals”

Oct 28
Greenvale, NY
Tilles Center
“Bernstein & Whitman: American Originals”

Nov 26m, 26, 27m & 27
New York, NY
The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
Handel; Philip Glass: Glass Handel (New York premiere)
With Anthony Roth Costanzo for Opera Philadelphia and National Sawdust

Dec 2m
Brooklyn, NY
BRIC House Ballroom
Family Matinee

Dec 4, 6, 7, 8m, 8, 9m, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15m & 15
New York, NY
Park Avenue Armory
Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi: William Kentridge’s The Head and the Load (North American premiere) 

Feb 5
Brooklyn, NY
Pioneer Works
Private event (TBC)

Feb 8-27: European tour with Avi Avital, mandolin
Rebel: “Le Chaos” from Les éléments
Thomas Adès: Three Studies from Couperin
Rameau: Overture to Zoroastre
Bach, arr. Avital: Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 in D minor, BWV 1052
Beethoven: Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93
Plus arrangements, transcriptions, and original music from Middle Eastern, Balkan, and klezmer sources
Feb 8: Szczecin, Poland
Feb 10: Berlin, Germany (Konzerthaus)
Feb 11: Bielefeld, Germany
Feb 12: Düsseldorf, Germany (Tonhalle)
Feb 13: Heidelberg, Germany
Feb 16: Hanover, Germany
Feb 17: Darmstadt, Germany
Feb 19 & 20: Hamburg, Germany (Elbphilharmonie)
Feb 21: Vienna, Austria (Musikverein)
Feb 22: Linz, Austria
Feb 24: Friedrichshafen, Germany
Feb 25: Schaffhausen, Switzerland
Feb 26: Zurich, Switzerland (Tonhalle Maag)
Feb 27: Neumarkt, Germany

March 30
Brooklyn, NY
Family Show

March 31–April 3: Concerts in DC and NYC with Kinan Azmeh, clarinet
Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte
Donnacha Dennehy: New Work (U.S. premiere)
Kinan Azmeh: Concertino Grosso (DC and NY premieres)
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
March 31 & April 1: Washington, DC (Dumbarton Oaks)
April 3: New York, NY (Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall) 

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


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© 21C Media Group, September 2018

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