With their gripping performance style and unquenchable appetite for musical adventure, Brooklyn Rider has carved a singular space in the world of string quartets over their fifteen-year history. Defining the string quartet as a medium with deep historic roots and endless possibility for invention, they find equal inspiration in musical languages ranging from late Beethoven to Persian classical music to American roots music to the endlessly varied voices of living composers. Claiming no allegiance to either end of the historical spectrum, Brooklyn Rider most comfortably operates within the long arc of the tradition, seeking to illuminate works of the past with fresh insight while coaxing the malleable genre into the future through an inclusive programming vision, deep-rooted collaborations with a wide range of global tradition bearers, and the creation of thoughtful and relevant frames for commissioning projects.
The upcoming concert season is strongly illustrative of the intrepid musical appetite of Brooklyn Rider. This coming fall, they will premiere a major new work by the great Argentinian composer and close friend, Osvaldo Golijov. The quartet also has two new collaborative projects for 2021-22. One is with Israeli mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital, and the other is a brand new phase of work with Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, where they will explore themes of love and death through the music of Franz Schubert and Rufus Wainwright. Looking further into the future, they will expand work already underway with Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and will launch a major new commissioning venture for the 2022-23 season called The Four Elements; an exploration of the four classical elements (earth, air, water, and fire) as metaphor for both the complex inner world of the string quartet and the current health of planet Earth.
Prior to the global pandemic, the 2019-20 season saw a veritable explosion of new projects and releases. Shared at the height of the US lockdown, the Grammy®-nominated recording Healing Modes (In A Circle Records) presented Beethoven’s towering Opus 132 — the composer’s late testament on healing and the restorative power of new creation — interwoven with five new commissions powerfully exploring topics as wide-ranging as the US-Mexico border conflict, the Syrian refugee crisis, the mental health epidemic, and physical well-being. Described by The New Yorker as a project which “…could not possibly be more relevant or necessary than it is currently,” the composers include Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank, Matana Roberts, Caroline Shaw, and Du Yun.
Earlier in the same season saw the release of two projects from vastly different musical spheres. One with the master Irish fiddler Martin Hayes (In A Circle Records), an album which the Irish Times described as “a masterclass in risk-taking,” and the other, Sun On Sand (Nonesuch Records), featuring the music of Patrick Zimmerli with saxophone giant Joshua Redman and fellow collaborators Scott Colley on bass and Satoshi Takeishi, percussion.
In fall 2018, Brooklyn Rider released Dreamers on Sony Music Masterworks with Mexican jazz vocalist Magos Herrera. Celebrating the power of beauty as a political act, Dreamers amplifies the visionary artistry of Violeta Parra, Federico Garcia Lorca, Gilberto Gil, Joao Gilberto, Octavio Paz, and others, all who dared to dream under repressive regimes. Featuring gems from the Ibero-American songbook in evocative arrangements by Jaques Morelenbaum, Diego Schissi, Gonzalo Grau, Guillermo Klein, and Brooklyn Rider’s own Colin Jacobsen, Dreamers topped numerous charts and garnered a Grammy® nomination for best arrangement (Gonzalo Grau’s “Niña”). Touring widely to support the album, they appeared at venues ranging from New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center to Mexico City’s Deco masterpiece, the Palacio de Bellas Artes.
Brooklyn Rider has remained steadfast in their commitment to generate new music for string quartet at nearly every phase of their history. To kick off the 2017-18 season, Brooklyn Rider released Spontaneous Symbols (In a Circle Records), featuring new commissions by Tyondai Braxton, Evan Ziporyn, Paula Matthusen, Kyle Sanna, and Colin Jacobsen. In the 2015-16 season, the group celebrated its tenth anniversary with the groundbreaking multi-disciplinary project The Brooklyn Rider Almanac, for which it recorded and toured 15 specially commissioned works by musicians from the worlds of folk, jazz, and indie rock, each inspired by a different artistic muse. The Fiction Issue, with singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane, featured his composition which was premiered in 2012 at Carnegie Hall by Kahane, Brooklyn Rider, and Shara Nova. Additionally, Brooklyn Rider has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the music of the iconic American composer Philip Glass, which began with 2011’s much-praised recording Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass and continued with two subsequent installments of Glass’s works for string quartet, all released on the composer’s label Orange Mountain Music.
Numerous other collaborations have helped give rise to NPR Music’s observation that Brooklyn Rider is “recreating the 300-year-old form of string quartet as a vital and creative 21st-century ensemble.” During the 2016-17 season, Brooklyn Rider released an album entitled So Many Things on Naïve Records with Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, comprising music by Colin Jacobsen, Caroline Shaw, John Adams, Nico Muhly, Björk, Sting, Kate Bush and Elvis Costello, among others. Some Of A Thousand Words, an evening-length program with choreographer Brian Brooks and former New York City Ballet prima ballerina Wendy Whelan, was an intimate series of duets and solos in which the quartet’s live onstage music is a dynamic and central creative component. Some Of A Thousand Words was featured at the 2016 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, before two U.S. tours, including a week-long run at New York City’s Joyce Theater. A collaboration with Dance Heginbotham with music written by Colin Jacobsen resulted in Chalk And Soot, an evening-length work presented by Lincoln Center’s White Lights Festival in 2014. Brooklyn Rider has also frequently teamed up with banjoist Béla Fleck, with whom they appeared on two different albums, 2017’s Juno Concerto and 2013’s The Impostor. And in one of their longest-standing musical friendships to date, Brooklyn Rider and Iranian kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor released the highly praised recording Silent City (World Village) in 2008, still touring the project to this day.