Press Room

The Knights Give Two World Premieres This Summer, Plus Performances at Tanglewood, Caramoor and in Central Park

Hailed as “one of Brooklyn’s sterling cultural products” (New Yorker), this summer Grammy-nominated orchestral collective The Knights participates in two highly anticipated collaborative world premieres, first with Pam Tanowitz Dance at the Bard SummerScape festival and then with South African polymath William Kentridge at London’s Tate Modern.

They also reprise the Kentridge piece at northwest Germany’s Ruhrtriennale; return to both Caramoor and Central Park’s Naumburg Orchestral Concerts series; and anchor a fully staged production of Bernstein’s Candide at Tanglewood. With a restless spirit of invention and a mission to revitalize and transform the concert experience for audiences at home in Brooklyn and around the world, the groundbreaking orchestra continues to “playfully combine early music with avant-garde, great classics with world music – constantly blowing audiences away” (Hamburger Abendblatt).

Two world premieres are on the docket this summer, the first of which is at Bard SummerScape. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, a poetic meditation on time and memory that is widely regarded as his crowning achievement. To celebrate this milestone anniversary, SummerScape commissioned the first authorized dance performance ever to be based on Eliot’s modernist masterpiece, drawing on the talents of three of today’s most potent artistic voices: American choreographer Pam Tanowitz, “one of the most formally brilliant choreographers around” (New York Times) and the recipient of a Bessie Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the prestigious 2017 Cage Cunningham Fellowship; American modernist painter Brice Marden, who was the subject of a major retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art; and Grawemeyer and Grammy Award-winning Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, whose rich, polyphonic textures have “given her audiences – and given late 20th- and early 21st-century music as a whole – some of the most luminous, beguiling and sheerly sensual experiences they can hope to have” (The Guardian). Saariaho’s music will be interpreted by four Knights musicians: co-artistic director Colin Jacobsen on violin, Nicholas Cords on viola, Hannah Collins on cello, and Bridget Kibbey on harp. Also taking part in the world premiere of Four Quartets is Tony Award–nominated actress Kathleen Chalfant (Angels in America, Wit), who performs Eliot’s text live (July 6-8). Four Quartets is co-commissioned with the Barbican Centre in London and the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, and the work will be performed in London and Los Angeles in 2019.

Hailed as a “consistently inventive, infectiously engaged indie ensemble” (New York Times), The Knights also take part in another collaborative world premiere this summer, when London’s Tate Modern presents William Kentridge’s The Head and the Load (July 11-15). A native of South Africa, Kentridge is known for his critical examination of his homeland’s society in the aftermath of apartheid. Borrowing its title from the traditional Ghanaian proverb, “The head and the load are a trouble for the neck,” his major new work tells the untold story of the hundreds of thousands of African porters and carriers who served in British, French and German forces during the First World War. The powerful and evocative music is by Kentridge’s long-time collaborator, leading South African composer Philip Miller, with orchestration by Knights member Michael P. Atkinson, who compiled an original score drawing on a wide range of traditions through workshops with The Knights in New York and Johannesburg. The Knights are joined in this processional musical journey – as much an installation as a performance piece – by an international ensemble cast of singers, dancers, and performers, as well as a chorus of mechanized gramophones, with film projections and shadow play creating an imaginative landscape on an epic scale. Like Four Quartets, The Head and the Load is an ongoing project, with further summer performances at northwest Germany’s Ruhrtriennale (Aug 9-12), and a week-and-a-half run at New York’s Park Avenue Armory in the coming season.

Prior to these world premieres, on June 17 The Knights return to Caramoor, making their first summer season appearance at the Westchester estate after giving a concert there in fall 2014 with jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman and another the following year with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. For this summer’s program, The Knights will be led by conductor Eric Jacobsen, called an “interpretive dynamo” by the New York Times. They will be joined by steel pan player Andy Akiho, a prominent compositional voice in contemporary percussion music, for his own Fantasy for Steel Pans and Orchestra, while Knights flutist Alex Sopp will perform a flute concerto written for her by Judd Greenstein that the orchestra premiered last year. Fauré’s beloved Pavane, Op. 50, Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, and – to celebrate this year’s Bernstein Centennial – “Three Dance Episodes” from On the Town round out the program. Selections from this program will also be played in a special early-afternoon Family Concert the same day, giving a younger audience the chance to engage with music both familiar and new.

The Naumburg Orchestral Concerts in New York’s Central Park have become an annual destination for The Knights; 2018 marks the orchestra’s tenth consecutive appearance at the beloved outdoor series. The Knights return this year on July 17 with a characteristically diverse program comprising Brahms’s Hungarian Dances, Janáček’s Idyll, Armenian folk songs collected and transcribed by the Armenian priest and musicologist Komitas, and Within Her Arms by contemporary composer Anna Clyne. As Eric Jacobsen comments about the concert:

“The Janáček, Komitas and Brahms are all coming from traditional folk songs/melodies that have been adapted into classical concert music. They all deal with love, loss and dance. The Komitas in particular along with the Anna Clyne embody the feeling of sorrow and mourning. Anna Clyne wrote her piece for her mother and for her mother’s memory.”

The Naumburg performance will also be broadcast live on WQXR, New York’s classical music station, hosted by Annie Bergen.

Finally, on August 22 and 23 The Knights anchor a fully staged production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide at Tanglewood, where last season they played the East Coast premiere of Vijay Iyer’s violin concerto with soloist Jennifer Koh. Bernstein’s delightful 1956 comic operetta is based on Voltaire’s satirical novel, which follows the title character’s traumatic adventures in imperial Europe and semi-civilized South America, all of which put his teacher’s philosophy, of “All’s for the best in this best of all possible worlds,” to the test. The original play was by Lillian Hellman, and most of the song lyrics by poet Richard Wilbur. When a similar production of Candide, with some of the same participants, was staged two seasons ago by Eric Jacobsen’s Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orlando Sentinel called stage director Alison Moritz’s production “charming and funny,” and found the whole cast to be “in fine voice, especially the leading players – Miles Mykkanen as the title character and Sharleen Joynt as his beloved, who sparkles in the signature number ‘Glitter and Be Gay.’” Mykkanen and Joynt reprise the lead roles at Tanglewood, and Moritz is again the director, with Jacobsen on the podium.

The Chicago Classical Review noted, in a review especially apropos for the ensemble’s upcoming adventurous summer, “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.” The New York Times added, “camaraderie and shared enthusiasm for playing music are what drive the ensemble.” And the Washington Post praised the vitality The Knights bring to every performance:

“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.”

To download high-resolution photos, click here.


The Knights: summer 2018 engagements

June 17
Katonah, NY
Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
Venetian Theater
The Knights
Eric Jacobsen, conductor
Andy Akiho, steel pans
Alex Sopp, flute
Family Concert 

June 17
Katonah, NY
Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
Venetian Theater
The Knights
Eric Jacobsen, conductor
Andy Akiho, steel pans
Alex Sopp, flute
RAVEL: Le tombeau de Couperin
ANDY AKIHO: Fantasy for Steel Pans and Orchestra
FAURÉ: Pavane, Op. 50
BERNSTEIN: “Three Dance Episodes” from On the Town

July 6-8
Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
Bard SummerScape
Fisher Center at Bard College
KAIJA SAARIAHO: Four Quartets (new commission; with Pam Tanowitz Dance, images by Brice Marden, and Kathleen Chalfant, narrator)
Colin Jacobsen, violin; Nicholas Cords, viola; Hannah Collins, cello; and Bridget Kibbey, harp

July 11-15
London, UK
Tate Modern
PHILIP MILLER (orch. Michael P. Atkinson): The Head and the Load (new William Kentridge commission)

July 17
New York, NY
Central Park
Naumburg Orchestral Concerts
ANNA CLYNE: Within Her Arms
KOMITAS: Armenian folk song suite, to include :

   Vagharshabadi Dance

   It’s Cloudy

   Follow Along!

   Song of the Little Partridge

   Spring Time

   Festive Song

BRAHMS (arr. Paul Brantley): Hungarian Dances 

Aug 9-12
Duisburg, Germany
PHILIP MILLER (orch. Michael P. Atkinson): The Head and the Load (new William Kentridge commission)

Aug 22 & 23
Lenox, MA
Tanglewood Festival
Seiji Ozawa Hall
The Knights
Eric Jacobsen, conductor
Alison Moritz, stage director

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© 21C Media Group, June 2018

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