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The Knights Perform in NY PHIL BIENNIAL (June 9) with SF Girls Chorus and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Return to Tanglewood and Central Park This Summer

Groundbreaking orchestral collective The Knights, fresh from an album release in February and subsequent North American tour, both with celebrated violinist Gil Shaham, will perform as part of the citywide NY PHIL BIENNIAL on June 9, conducted by cellist and co-Artistic Director Eric Jacobsen. The group will perform with the San Francisco Girls Chorus (whose Artistic Director, composer and 2009 Rome Prize-winner Lisa Bielawa, is a longtime collaborator), as well as with their fellow-Brooklynites and musical adventurers, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Together, they will present a concert of New York, U.S., and world premieres in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater. The Knights’ concert will be the second half of a double bill, with the earlier performance showcasing the two choruses on their own program of New York and world premieres. Later this summer, The Knights return to Central Park’s Naumburg Bandshell for their ninth straight season participating in the free Naumburg Orchestral Concerts series, with the concert broadcast live on WQXR.  They then return to Tanglewood for the third year in a row to give a concert in Seiji Ozawa Hall. Repertoire for both concerts ranges from Haydn and Schubert to Gabriel Kahane and Bob Dylan.

As Knights violinist and co-Artistic Director Colin Jacobsen comments:

“When the New York Philharmonic extended their generous offer to be part of the 2nd NY PHIL BIENNIAL, we knew we wanted to do something incredibly festive that could bring several communities together through the exploration of new music. … Inspired by Alan Gilbert’s mantra for the biennial, ‘more is more,’ we thought that bringing together these two vibrant groups from opposite coasts to do a number of world, U.S., and NY premieres with The Knights would be just the kind of happening that a festival of the biennial’s scope makes possible.”

The NY PHIL BIENNIAL performance features world premiere performances of compositions by both Colin Jacobsen – “one of the most interesting figures on the classical music scene “ (Washington Post) – and Lisa Bielawa, whose music has been said to evoke both “the layered precision of Vermeer and the conscious recklessness of Jackson Pollock.” (Gramophone) Jacobsen’s piece, If I Were Not Me, composed on texts from short stories by Lydia Davis, was commissioned by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and will be performed by that group along with The Knights. Bielawa’s piece, My Outstretched Hand was commissioned by The Knights and uses texts drawn from the autobiography of Mary MacLane, a 19-year-old girl living in Montana in 1902; it will be performed by all three groups.

A third world premiere on the program is of Grawemeyer Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis’s Remembering the Sea – Souvenir de la Mer, to be performed by The Knights and the commissioning San Francisco Girls Chorus. Kernis, a member of the composition faculty at Yale, asked Kai Hoffman-Krull, founder of the Yale literary journal Letters, to write a text for a musical response to the Paris and San Bernardino massacres. Describing the three movements, he says: “the first [is] a song of memory, the second a kind of Dies Irae, and the third a song that asks many questions but finds no answers.”

In its one departure from choral music, the concert also includes the U.S. premiere of Nico Muhly’s song cycle Impossible Things (2009) for tenor, violin and string orchestra, based on texts by 20th-century Greek poet C.P. Cavafy and featuring tenor Nicholas Phan and Colin Jacobsen on violin. Muhly – a celebrated cross-genre collaborator and the youngest composer ever commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera – describes the work as “a valentine to Benjamin Britten.”

Finally, rounding out the program is another concerted effort between the three ensembles: the New York premiere of Comfort Food (2012) by Timo Andres – hailed in the New Yorker for music of “an unhurried grandeur that has rarely been felt in American music since John Adams.”  The text of the piece is a list of comfort foods from an informal survey of the composer’s friends and colleagues, and ranges all the way from earthly food items like “buttered toast” to “the somewhat metaphysical,” like Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 7, which he quotes in the piece.

The NY PHIL BIENNIAL concert caps a full season for The Knights, which included a program at the Caramoor estate featuring Yo-Yo Ma; an annual NYC residency at Brooklyn’s BRIC House; and an appearance on Gil Shaham’s new album, Violin Concertos of the 1930s, Vol. 2, on which the orchestra partnered with him for Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto. The North American tour with Shaham that followed featured the same piece, on a program that also included Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony and a world premiere chamber concerto for violin and orchestra by Jonathan Leshnoff.

To download high-resolution photos, click here.

The Knights: spring and summer engagements

June 9
With Brooklyn Youth Chorus and San Francisco Girls Chorus
Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center
New York, NY
Lisa Bielawa: My Outstretched Hand (world premiere)
Nico Muhly: Impossible Things (U.S. Premiere; with Nicholas Phan, tenor; Colin Jacobsen, violin)
Colin Jacobsen: If I Were Not Me (world premiere)
Aaron Jay Kernis: Remembering the Sea – Souvenir de la Mer (world premiere)
Timo Andres: Comfort Food (New York Premiere)

July 12
Naumburg Bandshell, Central Park
New York, NY
Haydn: Symphony No. 64, “Tempora mutantur”
Kahane: Crane Palimpsest
Schubert: Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, D. 485
Haggart/Bauduc: The Big Noise from Winnetka
Dylan (arr. The Knights): “The Times, They Are A’-Changin’”

July 14
Seiji Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood
Lenox, MA
Haydn: Symphony No. 64, “Tempora mutantur”
Kahane: Crane Palimpsest
Schubert: Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, D. 485
Haggart/Bauduc: The Big Noise from Winnetka
Stevens: “The First Cut Is the Deepest”
Dylan (arr. The Knights): “The Times, They Are A’-Changin’”

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© 21C Media Group, May 2016

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