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On Center: Brooklyn Rider

by on March 02, 2015 11:54 AM

“I’ve seen the future of chamber music,” writes a reviewer for Strings magazine, “and it is Brooklyn Rider.”

The quartet, which makes its Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State concert premiere Tuesday, April 14, at Schwab Auditorium, offers an eclectic repertoire in performances that attract legions of fans and rave reviews from critics.

“They are four classical musicians performing with the energy of young rock stars jamming on their guitars,” insists a Pittsburgh-Post Gazette critic, “a Beethoven-goes-indie foray into making classical music accessible but also celebrating why it was good in the first place.”

NPR lauds violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords, and cellist Eric Jacobsen for “recreating the 300-year-old form of string quartet as a vital and creative twenty-first-century ensemble.”

Based in the New York City borough from which it takes a part of its name, Brooklyn Rider has performed in an array of venues such as Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Todai-ji in Japan, Lincoln Center, the Library of Congress, and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

The foursome, which creates original music in addition to performing the works of others, has collaborated on projects with artists as diverse as banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck and opera soprano Dawn Upshaw. The quartet members also are longstanding participants in Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, with which they have recorded three CDs and performed around the world.

The quartet’s 2014 conceptual album, The Brooklyn Rider Almanac, features original works by composers — most with ties to New York City — commissioned to create short works inspired by creative muses from their recent memories. Collaborators include percussionist Glenn Kotche of the rock band Wilco; singer-guitarist-pianist Aoife O’Donovan, a member of the progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still and the folk-noir trio Sometymes Why; percussionist Greg Saunier of the punk rock band Deerhoof; Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Vijay Iyer; Ethan Iverson, a member of the innovative piano trio The Bad Plus; and Bill Frisell, a jazz guitarist whose music touches on progressive folk, country, classical, and other genres.

To complement The Brooklyn Rider Almanac, the quartet is collaborating with a variety of artists to create related works. The project includes videos, animation, choreography, photo essays, articles, interviews, and remixes being released through 2015 on YouTube, social media, and on the Brooklyn Rider Web site at

Previous Brooklyn Rider albums include A Walking Fire (2013), Seven Steps (2012), Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass (2011), and Dominant Curve (2010).

Brooklyn Rider has been featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, On Point, All Songs Considered, Deceptive Cadence, and All Things Considered. The quartet’s recordings are played across North America on stations ranging in focus from classical to world, jazz, pop, and new music.

The cross-disciplinary vision of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a pre-World War I artist collective in Munich, inspired Brooklyn Rider’s name.

Designer’s Studio sponsors the concert. WPSU is the media sponsor. For tickets or information, visit or phone (814) 863-0255.

John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.
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