LIVE BROADCAST: Town Music Season Finale

by Maggie Molloy

Every end marks a new beginning—and as the 2016-2017 Town Music series comes to a close, artistic director Joshua Roman looks excitedly toward the future with a program of works by living (and thriving!) composers.

For this Wednesday’s season finale, Joshua conducts members of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra as they perform alongside SYSO alums and musical mentors. The wide-ranging program draws from musical traditions old and new, near and far—featuring a tribute to Haydn by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, the world premiere of a new jazz-inspired work by Gregg Kallor, a tango-infused chamber piece by Osvaldo Golijov, a string homage to Hindustani classical by Reena Esmail, and much more.

Join us as we broadcast the performance LIVE this Wednesday from Town Hall Seattle! Download our app or click here to listen to the broadcast online from anywhere in the world, streaming live on Wednesday, June 21 at 7:30pm PST.

Concert Program:

Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte
Reena Esmail: Teen Murti
Gregg Kallor: A Mouthful of Forevers (World Premiere)

—INTERMISSION—

Osvaldo Golijov: Last Round
Christopher Theofanidis: Visions and Miracles
Jessie Montgomery: Starburst


Town Music’s Every New Beginning concert is Wednesday, June 21 at 7:30pm at Town Hall. Click here for more information, and click here to tune in to Second Inversion’s live broadcast.

LIVE VIDEO STREAM: A Far Cry on Friday, May 26 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

A Far Cry and members of Silk Road premiere Vijay Iyer’s “City of Sand.”

by Maggie Molloy

New and familiar works from all corners of the globe come together this Friday night at A Far Cry’s concert collaboration with members from Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. And although the concert itself is in Boston (and also completely sold out), you can still hear every minute of this musical tour de force right here on Second Inversion during our live video stream of the performance this Friday, May 26 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET.

Joined by Silk Road members Kinan Azmeh (clarinet), Sandeep Das (tabla), Haruka Fujii (percussion), Joseph Gramley (percussion), and Wu Man (pipa), A Far Cry explores music from across the ages and around the world, ranging from Bartók’s famous Romanian Folk Dances to a brand new world premiere of Vijay Iyer’s City of Sand.

The world-ranging program features composers and music from about a dozen different countries, including India, Iran, China, Syria, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, America, Japan, and more. Check out the full program below, and click here for program notes.

Kayhan Kalhor: Gallop of a Thousand Horses
Zhao Jiping: Sacred Cloud Music
Kinan Azmeh: Ibn Arabi Postlude
Béla Bartók, arr. Arthur Willner: Romanian Folk Dances
Kojiro Umezaki: For Zero
Vijay Iyer: City of Sand (World Premiere)
Sandeep Das, arr. Jesse Irons: Tarang
JPP and Marin Marin, arr. Karl Doty & Erik Higgins: Finnish and Swedish Fiddle Tunes
Kinan Azmeh: Bass Duo
Sapo Parapaskero, arr. Ljova & Osvaldo Golijov: Turceasca

Visit our website on Friday, May 26 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET to watch the sold-out performance LIVE. To learn more about our live-streaming video broadcasts of A Far Cry, click here.

ALBUM REVIEW: ORBIT: Music for Solo Cello (1945-2014)

by Maggie Molloy

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What do Jimi Hendrix guitar solos, György Ligeti sonatas, Shakespeare sonnets, and Spanish sarabandes all have in common? Each of them appears in one form or another on cellist Matt Haimovitz’s latest release, “Orbit: Music for Solo Cello (1945-2014).”

Sprawling in scope, “Orbit” is a three-disc compilation of music for solo cello featuring works by over 20 contemporary composers, 15 of whom are still living. The ambitious solo album is also one of the first releases on the new Pentatone Oxingale Series. This innovative new project is a collaboration between the Dutch classical music label PENTATONE and Haimovitz’s own  trailblazing artists’ label Oxingale Records, which he created in 2000 with his partner in life and music, composer Luna Pearl Woolf.

Clocking in at a hefty 3 hours and 45 minutes, the album features solo works that Haimovitz initially released on Oxingale as five thematic albums: “Anthem” (2003), “Goulash!” (2005), “After Reading Shakespeare” (2007), “Figment” (2009), and “Matteo” (2011). The album also includes two newly-recorded works: Philip Glass’s “Orbit” and a new arrangement by Woolf of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”

Over the course of three discs, Haimovitz takes the listener on a musical odyssey through time and space, from minimalism to maximalism, tonal to atonal, folk to avant-garde, abstract to narrative, and everything in between.

The album begins with the title track, Philip Glass’s “Orbit.” Warm and achingly tender melodies evolve softly over the course of this seven-minute solo work, and Haimovitz crafts each note gorgeously.

He tackles a very different style of contemporary classical in his performance of Luciano Berio’s “Sequenza XIV,” a virtuosic piece with mesmerizing rhythms inspired by Sri Lankan drumming. Haimovitz bows, plucks, taps, twangs, slides, scrapes, and soars through a number of extended techniques before settling into silence.

Another memorable moment on the album is György Ligeti’s Sonata for Violoncello Solo, a piece Haimovitz worked directly with Ligeti himself to learn. The piece’s modal melodies and Hungarian profile make clear the influence of Bartók and Kodály, and Haimovitz brings out the complex polyphonic counterpoint beautifully. It is followed by a performance of Du Yun’s “San,” a piece which weaves musical fragments of Eastern mysticism and meditation into a mesmerizing yet haunting sound world.

Haimovitz also takes a crack at some contemporary popular music: the album includes his own cello arrangement of Jimi Hendrix’s famous “Star-Spangled Banner” performance at Woodstock. He snarls, growls, and wails through the Hendrix classic so convincingly that you’d almost expect him to have a whammy bar hidden somewhere on his cello. Haimovitz also takes on the Beatles’ loud, wild, and raunchy proto-metal anthem, “Helter Skelter.”

Over the course of disc two Haimovitz glides through the dramatic and dense melodies of Elliott Carter’s “Figment” (Nos. 1 and 2), the ethereal whispers of Salvatore Sciarrino’s “Ai Limiti Della Notte,” and the gorgeous cantabile lyricism of Luigi Dallapiccola’s “Ciaccona, Intermezzo e Adagio.”

But the most sentimental piece on the album is Woolf’s “Sarabande.” Derived from the Baroque Spanish dance form, the piece is also named after Haimovitz and Woolf’s child, who was lost mid-term in utero. The poignant and pensive work is both delicate and passionate, and Haimovitz brings it to life with remarkable timbral detail.

The third disc features three suites inspired by literature. The first is Ned Rorem’s “After Reading Shakespeare,” a suite in which each movement is based on a quotation from a Shakespearean play or sonnet—and the nine movements explores the romance, beauty, and balance of Shakespeare’s poetry without using a single word.

Inspired by Rorem’s work, Haimovitz commissioned two new suites based in literature by Pulitzer Prize-winning composers Paul Moravec and Lewis Spratlan. Moravec’s “Mark Twain Sez” takes the witty words of Mark Twain as the basis for an eight-movement exploration into the human condition, exploring themes of dreams, love, humor, insanity, mystery, and more.

The album comes to a close with Spratlan’s four-movement “Shadow,” a surreal musical reflection which takes the symbolist poetry of Rimbaud to a whole new world.

Because in the end, the musical possibilities for solo cello are about as numerous as the stars in the sky—and Haimovitz puts them all into “Orbit.”

Matt Haimovitz and Christopher O’Riley, from our field trip to the Tractor Tavern in Seattle on February 2, 2015

Staff & Community Picks: August 13

A weekly rundown of the music our staff and listeners are loving lately! Are you interested in contributing some thoughts on your favorite new music albums? Drop us a line!


Joshua Roman on Golijov’s Ayre:

71kEKXXvAAL._SX522_This is an amazing piece that I first stumbled upon several years ago and basically put on repeat.  It’s a unique set-up where you have things like a hyper-accordion, which is an invention by the player himself, Michael Ward-Bergeman.  He basically takes two inputs and puts them on either side of the accordion and creates this stereo effect with a machine that mixes them together to create the “hyper effect.” It’s kind of like an accordion on steroids and produces a lot of intense sounds. Golijov uses this to great effect to take you through different modes of musical communication.  It’s not stuck in style; it really goes all over the place, but all fits together very well and flows very naturally.  There are moments that are very touching and movements where you’ll think, “What the hell is going on?” but in a really great way.  It’s extremely exciting! Dawn Upshaw gives an incredible performance and allows herself to go to places that are just primal in nature.



Jill Kimball on David Leisner’s Facts of Life

911XPzhwHeL._SL1417_Addiction. Heartbreak.  Disappointment. We’d like to brush all these things under a rug, but sometimes they’re the facts of life. Composer David del Tredici chose to place his negative life experiences at the forefront of his four-movement solo guitar work, “Facts of Life.” It’s just one of three pieces on an album featuring the virtuosic guitarist David Leisner. The piece transitions effortlessly from tango to fugue to some fantastically frenetic strumming. Another beautifully chaotic piece on the album is Osvaldo Golijov’s “Fish Tale,” a chamber piece about a sea creature who takes a trippy, Alice in Wonderland-like journey through the water. 



Geoffrey Larson on Ravi Shankar’s Symphony

854990001604This piece is something totally different: an orchestral work that is part symphony, part sitar concerto. Both a sitar master and long-time classical composer and collaborator, the late Ravi Shankar fashioned a four-movement work that brings Hindustani music to the Western orchestral ensemble. Pounding raga-like rhythms and dance figures can be found throughout, augmented by actual vocalizations by the LPO players in the final movement. The composer’s daughter, sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar shines in this live performance recording. Common practice period not spicy enough? These unique symphonic flavors might do the trick.

LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: Parnassus Project

Parnassus Project presents Ruminations on Friday, August 14 at 8pm at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.

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Georgia O’Keeffe. Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue, 1931

Parnassus Project has swept the Seattle area up in open arms since the summer of 2011, presenting concerts in restaurants (The Pink Door), art galleries (Design Commission), public parks (Tuesday lunch concerts at Westlake and Occidental parks), coffee shops (Roy Street Coffee & Tea, Zoka, Tully’s), libraries (Seattle Downtown branch), and… the list just keeps going! We admire Parnassus Project’s philosophy of bringing music to the people in intimate settings that encourage conversation and community, often in the presence of excellent food and beverage.

 

They’re also dedicated to presenting new works by up and coming composers and featuring local musicians, two additional things that instantly caught our attention! This Friday, August 14 at 8pm, Parnassus makes their second annual summer appearance on the Wayward Music Series at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. This program, Ruminations, explores American music past and present through works of George Crumb, John Adams, and a world premiere by local composer Cole Bratcher.

Second Inversion is proud to be the media sponsor of this concert – we’ll be recording the concert for our 24/7 stream and online concert archives. Don’t miss the action live and in person – RSVP to their Facebook event! We’ll see you there!

Full program and performer line-up:

CRUMB//Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik (A Little Midnight Music), 2001
ADAMS//Road Movies, 1995
BRATCHER//Jonah the Sinnerman, 2015 [World Premiere]
GOLIJOV//Tenebrae, 2002

Luke Fitzpatrick, Sol Im, violins//Rick Neff, viola//Haeyoon Shin, cello//Brooks Tran, piano

 

ALBUM REVIEW: “Dreams and Prayers” by A Far Cry

by Jill Kimball

A Far Cry

A Far Cry.

When really, really good musicians get together to play music, something magical happens. Some of the best performances in history have been called divine or heavenly. No matter their faith (or lack thereof), those who appreciate music can agree there’s something otherworldly about an amazing performance or recording.

“We’re kind of scrubbing on our instruments, and what somehow comes out of that physical act is something spiritual or transcendent, ” says Miki-Sophia Cloud, a violinist with the self-conducted chamber orchestra A Far Cry. “The history of spiritual mysticism [is] about connecting the physical and the spiritual, which is such a theme in music as well.”

In observing the connection between mysticism and music, the members of A Far Cry had a great idea. They decided to make an album called Dreams & Prayers, a unique collection of music that explores the relationship of spirituality and sound. It begins with Hildegard of Bingen, fast-forwards to the present day, backtracks to 1994, and then concludes at the bedside of a newly-healed Ludwig van Beethoven. Four works, three faith traditions, and 1,000 years comprise this stunning, exhilarating, and (dare I say it?) transcendent album.

The disc gets is name from its focal work, Osvaldo Golijov‘s The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind. Golijov originally composed the piece for klezmer clarinet and string quartet–more specifically, for the Kronos Quartet–and has now written an arrangement specifically for A Far Cry to premiere. What’s especially exciting about this recording is that the klezmer clarinetist is David Krakauer, the very same musician who played the premiere with Kronos.

The whole piece is inspired by the writings and teachings of Isaac the Blind, a Jewish mystic who lived in 12th and 13th century Provence. Its three movements are inspired by the three historical Jewish languages: Aramaic, Yiddish and Hebrew. The kind of transcendence explored here is more ecstatic and lively than it is dreamy or serene: you get the sense that Krakauer and the Criers just let go and played with abandon, reveling in the piece’s driving dance rhythms, lush orchestration and utter chaos.

With this 33-minute tornado at the center of Dreams & Prayers, it’s easy to forget there’s another world premiere on the CD: Mehmet Ali Sanlikol‘s Vecd, commissioned by the ensemble. Vecd, in Arabic, “refers to a state of rapture or ecstasy,” according to the composer; the piece is a musical evocation of the kind of spiritual ecstasy Sufi whirling dervishes try to achieve in formal religious ceremonies. Almost everyone will find this piece aesthetically appealing, even if they don’t make the religious connection. It begins with just a few musicians playing soft, meditative sustained notes. Then, a dramatic melody swoops in. Over the course of a few minutes, it gains in speed and volume until the piece reaches its whirling climax. The sound gradually slows and fades until, as in the beginning, only a few musicians remain.

My absolute favorite part about Dreams & Prayers is its opening track, an original arrangement of the chant O ignis spiritus paracliti by the incomparable Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard isn’t famous just because she was one of history’s first female composers. She’s famous because she was a composer, writer, philosopher, theologian, scientist, mystic, and Benedictine abbess…simultaneously. And her music was like nothing anyone had heard before: her chants were more expressive, complex and artistic than any of those composed before and even during her lifetime. It’s such a pleasure to hear her haunting chant arranged so simply on this disc: no extraneous notes or harmonies, just one pure melodic line played in perfectly-imperfect unison by the violinists of A Far Cry. Despite its simplicity, it’s not background music: this track deserves your undivided attention.

A close second favorite is the album’s heart-wrenching conclusion, the third movement from Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15. At first it seemed strange for A Far Cry to include something so comparatively conventional, but then I read T.S. Eliot’s thoughts on the piece:

“I find it quite inexhaustible to study. There is a sort of heavenly or at least more than human gaiety about some of his later things which one imagines might come to oneself as the fruit of reconciliation and relief after immense suffering; I should like to get something of that into verse before I die.”

History tells us T.S. Eliot was on the nose about this piece: Beethoven likely wrote it following his recovery from an abdominal illness. In the original manuscript, he describes the third movement as a “Holy song of Thanksgiving to a convalescent of the Deity.”  It’s an ode to the emotional healing power of music, further proof that we turn to music for a respite from all forms of pain. One last time, A Far Cry connects the physical with the spiritual in their impeccable yet sensitive performance of this movement.

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Dreams & Prayers is available to buy through the ensemble’s own label, Crier Records, here.