Brooklyn Rider | Mandel Hall, University of Chicago | Classical | Chicago Reader

Brooklyn Rider Agenda Soundboard Recommended

When: Fri., Jan. 25, 7:30 p.m. 2013

It’s no longer unusual for a classical group to have a name that doesn’t include a word like “quartet” or “ensemble,” or for it to focus on new compositions or on music that draws on pop, jazz, electronica, and the like. All of which means New York string quartet Brooklyn Rider isn’t an oddity these days—but it’s one of the best of this new generation. Violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords, and cellist Eric Jacobsen (Colin’s brother) formed the quartet in 2006, while playing together in Yo-Yo Ma’s expansive Silk Road Project. In Ma’s group they adapt music from all over Asia, and in Brooklyn Rider they’ve done likewise—for the excellent 2008 album Silent City (World Village), they collaborated with Iranian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor. That’s not to say Brooklyn Rider restricts itself to Asian music: last year they released a double CD collecting the complete string quartets of Philip Glass, plus an album called Seven Steps (In a Circle) that collides a dramatic rendering of Beethoven’s meticulous String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp Minor (with heavy use of glissando and less vibrato than is traditional) with the dense 2008 work Together Into This Unknowable Night by New York composer Christopher Tignor (who leads the rock-flavored new-music group Slow Six). The real oddity on the album, though, is the title track, a response to the Beethoven quartet composed collectively by all four members of Brooklyn Rider, who write in the liner notes that they were “guided by a spirit of free play rather than the heavy hand of the auteur’s pen.” It’s just 12 minutes long, in contrast with the 40-minute Beethoven quartet, but its scratchy textures, extended techniques, and rapid-fire movement make up for in impact what’s missing in duration and exposition. For tonight’s concert the group will play Seven Steps, but the centerpiece of the program isn’t the Beethoven but rather another classical warhorse, Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 1 in E-flat. Also included are John Zorn’s The Alchemist, Colin Jacobsen’s “Three Persian Miniatures,” and works by Christina Courtin, Dana Lyn, and Vijay Iyer, all from a series of commissions called the Brooklyn Rider Almanac, for which the group asks composers to use any artist from the past 50 years as an inspiration. —Peter Margasak

Price: $35, $5 students

Add a review


Select a star to rate.