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Brooklyn Rider

"Brooklyn Rider stands out for its consistent refinement, globe-spanning stylistic range, do-it-yourself gumption and integration of standard repertory works into the mix.” –The New York Times

Praised for their “stunningly imaginative” performances (Lucid Culture), the adventurous, intrepid string quartet Brooklyn Rider combines a wildly eclectic repertoire with a gripping performance style that continues to attract legions of fans and draw critical acclaim from classical, world, and rock critics. NPR credits Brooklyn Rider with “recreating the 300-year-old form of string quartet as a vital and creative 21st-century ensemble,” and Vice likens Brooklyn Rider to “motocross daredevils who never screw up a stunt.” At home in both clubs and concert halls, Brooklyn Rider has appeared in venues as varied as New York City’s Joe’s Pub, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Japan’s Todai-ji, the Library of Congress, and the South By Southwest Festival. Through creative programming and global collaborations, Brooklyn Rider’s “down-to-earth demeanor…demystifies contemporary classical music and invites everyone into the tent." (Time Out New York)

Brooklyn Rider’s 2012–13 season builds upon its commitment to new repertoire and enlightening interpretations of established pieces. The ensemble’s fall tour—which presents works by Stravinsky, Bartók, and Gabriel Kahane, as well as world premieres by Colin Jacobsen, Shara Worden, Vijay Iyer and John Zorn—stops at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where Brooklyn Rider continues its three-year residency and participates in UNC’s “Make it New” initiative and the “Rite of Spring at 100” series. Brooklyn Rider will also participate in the premiere of a new work by Kahane at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, as well as WQXR’s “Beethoven Remix” at the Greene Space. This season, the quartet also continues to develop its ongoing “The Brooklyn Rider Almanac” - for which it commissions composers from various genres to write short, art-inspired works for string quartet including Nik Bärtsch, Padma Newsome, Shara Worden, Greg Saunier, Ethan Iverson, Bill Frisell among others. The quartet will participate in a recording project with 14-time Grammy-winner Béla Fleck, appear at Chicago’s Mandel Hall and Atlanta’s Schwartz Center, and embark on a second Asia tour in April 2013.

Last season, Brooklyn Rider made its Carnegie Hall debut at Zankel Hall, toured the U.S. twice, made its first trip to China (with concerts in Beijing and Hong Kong), and performed for the local inhabitants of the tsunami-ravaged town of Kesennuma, Japan. The ensemble also launched its residency with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and unveiled its first group composition, Seven Steps, which was also released on A Circle Records, the independent label founded by Brooklyn Rider violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in 2008. Chosen as one of NPR’s Listener Picks for the Year’s Best Albums (So Far), the album pairs the new work with Brooklyn Rider’s dynamic interpretation of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C minor, Op. 131, about which Time Out Chicago wrote, “This is Beethoven through a different lens, reminiscent perhaps of fin de siècle quartets like Capet and Rosé...A wonderful record to challenge seasoned listeners and embrace hesitant newcomers.”

In previous seasons, Brooklyn Rider made its at Lincoln Center debut as part of the inaugural Tully Scope Festival, toured Europe with Persian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor, performed at the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, the Cologne Philharmonie, American Academy in Rome, Malmö Festival in Sweden, Spoleto Festival USA, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and the SXSW Festival where it was the only classical group invited to play there. The Los Angeles Times reviewed one of the concerts from an extensive cross-country tour, saying, “The dazzling fingers-in-every-pie versatility that Brooklyn Rider exhibits is one of the wonders of contemporary music.”  The group also released Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass on the composer’s Orange Mountain Music label, praised by many including the Strad: “…a double-disc set from Brooklyn Rider of string quartets by Philip Glass…stands out for the delicacy of the ensemble, and the sheer beauty of the blend of tone colours. Even Glass-ophobes would be hard pressed not to admire the immaculate and blissfully transparent texture—helped along by the crisp recorded sound—with the players surging and rippling back and forth as they make Glass's distinctive sound world speak ...This is a rewarding, and distinctly different, disc of Glass.”

Born out of a desire to use the rich medium of the string quartet as a vehicle for communication across a large cross section of history and geography, Brooklyn Rider is equally devoted to the interpretation of existing quartet literature and to the creation of new works. The musicians have worked with such composers as Derek Bermel, Lisa Bielawa, Ljova, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, Jenny Scheinman and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, and they also regularly perform pieces written or arranged by members of the group. Another integral part of the group’s work involves creative collaborations with other artists, such as Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, Syrian/Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad, traditional and technology-based Japanese shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki, Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes, the trio 2 Foot Yard, and singer/songwriters Christina Courtin and Suzanne Vega. Courtin’s widely released debut album on Nonesuch features several tracks with the quartet, as does Vega’s Close Up 2: People & Places. A long-standing relationship between Brooklyn Rider and Kayhan Kalhor resulted in the critically acclaimed 2008 recording, Silent City, on the World Village/Harmonia Mundi label, selected by Rhapsody.com as one of World Music’s Best Albums of the Decade.

Brooklyn Rider often appears under the umbrella of outside initiatives begun by all four members of the group. In 2003 violinist Johnny Gandelsman created In A Circle, a series of performance events in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn that explores connections between music and the visual arts. He launched In A Circle Records in 2008 with the release of Brooklyn Rider's eclectic debut recording, Passport, followed by Dominant Curve in 2010, and Seven Steps in 2012. Consistent favorites of NPR, the first two albums made its year end round-ups, Best Classical CDs of 2008 and 50 Favorite Albums of 2010, and the third has already been chosen as a listener favorite. The recordings have received glowing reviews from Gramophone, Strings, The Strad and Huffington Post, as well as the online indie magazines Pitchfork, Vice, Nerve and Lucid Culture. “Forgive the hyperbole,” wrote Strings, “but I’ve seen the future of chamber music and it is Brooklyn Rider.” 

Brothers Colin and Eric Jacobsen are also co-founders of the exuberant New York-based The Knights, in which all the members of Brooklyn Rider play, and is, according to the New York Times, “an adventurous young orchestra that has established a strong reputation for polished performances and imaginative programming.” The quartet also founded the Stillwater Music Festival (MN) in 2006 as a place to unveil new repertoire and collaborations. As educators, Brooklyn Rider has enjoyed residencies at Williams College, MacPhail Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Texas A&M University, Denison University, and UNC Chapel Hill.  

Much of Brooklyn Rider's desire to extend the borders of conventional string quartet programming has come from their longstanding participation in Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble. As individual members of the ensemble, they have performed throughout the world, recorded three albums for Sony Classical, and taken part in educational initiatives, family concerts, museum residencies, and media broadcasts.

A public radio favorite, Brooklyn Rider has been featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, All Songs Considered, Deceptive Cadence, and All Things Considered, WNYC's Soundcheck, and American Public Media’s Performance Today, as well as NY1 News TV in New York City. The ensemble’s recordings are played across North America on stations ranging in focus from classical to world, jazz, pop, and new music.

The quartet's name is inspired in part by the cross disciplinary vision of Der Blau Reiter (The Blue Rider), a pre World War I Munich-based artistic collective whose members included Vassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Arnold Schoenberg, and Alexander Scriabin. In this spirit, Brooklyn Rider has created an online art gallery at www.brooklynrider.com that showcases the work of some of their friends.  Proceeds are used to support new commissioning projects. In the eclectic spirit of Der Blau Reiter, the group also draws inspiration from the exploding array of cultures and artistic energy found in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City, a place they call home.

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Brooklyn Rider on NPR's Tiny Desk