Thursday, October 21, 2021 | 7:30pm
Herbst TheatreVenue InformationSan Francisco
About This Performance
Brooklyn Rider makes chamber music intense and immediate with rock-and-roll energy and vibrantly eclectic programs. Classical and pop critics alike credit the group with what NPR sums up as “recreating the 300-year-old form of string quartet as a vital and creative 21st-century ensemble.” Equally iconoclastic and galvanizing, Nicholas Phan is, “one of the world’s most remarkable singers,” according to the Boston Globe.
NICO MUHLY: Stranger
plus other works
Neil O’Donnell and Chris Motley, Individual Sponsors
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.
Described by the Boston Globe as “one of the world’s most remarkable singers,” American tenor Nicholas Phan is increasingly recognized as an artist of distinction. Praised for his keen intelligence, captivating stage presence and natural musicianship, he performs regularly with the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies. Also an avid recitalist, in 2010 he co-founded the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC) to promote art song and vocal chamber music, where he serves as artistic director.
Phan once again launches his new season in Chicago, curating CAIC’s eighth annual Collaborative Works Festival. This year’s three-day festival, “The Living,” explores the songs of a diverse array of today’s leading composers. Other highlights of his 2019–20 season include debuts with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra with Riccardo Muti, the London Symphony Orchestra with Michael Tilson Thomas, Handel & Haydn Society with Masaaki Suzuki, and the New World Symphony for a program of vocal chamber music. He makes his role debut in the title role of Handel’s of Schubert’s Winterreise for full orchestra, with Houston-based orchestra, Mercury. In January 2020, Phan curates and performs in Emerging Voices with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society: a series of concerts, salons and panel discussions celebrating Paris and art song’s role as medium for understanding identity and forging connections during times of social, political and cultural change. In addition to return appearances with both the New York Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony, he also returns to the Cleveland-based baroque orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, for a tour of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion performing both the Evangelist and the tenor arias. Phan will also give the world premieres of two new song cycles in 2020, one by Nico Muhly commissioned for the Emerging Voices project, and one by Gabriel Kahane, commissioned to commemorate the 40th anniversary of San Francisco Performances. A celebrated recording artist, Phan will also release his 6th solo album, Clairières, in January 2020, a recording of songs by Lili and Nadia Boulanger.
Phan’s previous solo album, Gods and Monsters, was nominated for the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo Album. His other previous solo albums Illuminations, A Painted Tale, Still Fall the Rain and Winter Words, made many “best of” lists, including those of the New York Times, New Yorker, Chicago Tribune, WQXR, and Boston Globe. Phan’s growing discography also includes a Grammy-nominated recording of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella with Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony, Berlioz’ Roméo et Juliette with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, Scarlatti’s La gloria di primavera and Handel’s Joseph and his Brethren with Philharmonia Baroque, an album of Bach’s secular cantatas with Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan, Bach’s St. John Passion (in which he sings both the Evangelist and the tenor arias) with Apollo’s Fire, and the world premiere recordings of two orchestral song cycles: The Old Burying Ground by Evan Chambers and Elliott Carter’s A Sunbeam’s Architecture.
Phan has appeared with many of the leading orchestras in the North America and Europe, including the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Philharmonia Baroque, Boston Baroque, Les Violons du Roy, BBC Symphony, English Chamber Orchestra, Strasbourg Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra of London, and the Lucerne Symphony. He has toured extensively throughout the major concert halls of Europe and has appeared with the Oregon Bach, Ravinia, Marlboro, Edinburgh, Rheingau, Saint-Denis, and Tanglewood festivals, as well as the BBC Proms. Among the conductors he has worked with are Marin Alsop, Harry Bicket, Herbert Blomstedt, Pierre Boulez, Karina Canellakis, James Conlon, Alan Curtis, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Charles Dutoit, James Gaffigan, Alan Gilbert, Jane Glover, Matthew Halls, Manfred Honeck, Bernard Labadie, Louis Langrée, Cristian Măcelaru, Nicholas McGegan, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, John Nelson, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Helmuth Rilling, David Robertson, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Masaaki Suzuki, Michael Tilson Thomas, Bramwell Tovey and Franz Welser-Möst.
An avid proponent of vocal chamber music, he has collaborated with many chamber musicians, including pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode, Jeremy Denk, Graham Johnson, Roger Vignoles, Inon Barnatan, Myra Huang and Alessio Bax; violinist James Ehnes; guitarist Eliot Fisk; harpist Sivan Magen; and horn players Jennifer Montone, Radovan Vlatkovic and Gail Williams. In both recital and chamber concerts, he has been presented by Carnegie Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Atlanta’s Spivey Hall, Boston’s Celebrity Series, and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. In addition to his work as artistic director of CAIC, he also has served as guest curator for projects with the Laguna Beach Music Festival, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, WQXR, and San Francisco Performances, where he served as the vocal artist-in-residence from 2014-2018.
Phan’s many opera credits include appearances with the Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, Chicago Opera Theater, Seattle Opera, Portland Opera, Glyndebourne Opera, Maggio Musicale in Florence, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, and Frankfurt Opera. His growing repertoire includes the title roles in Bernstein’s Candide, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Handel’s Acis and Galatea, Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, Fenton in Falstaff, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, and Lurcanio in Ariodante.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, Phan is the 2012 recipient of the Paul C. Boylan Distinguished Alumni Award and the 2018 Christopher Kendall Award. He also studied at the Manhattan School of Music and the Aspen Music Festival and School, and is an alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. He was the recipient of a 2006 Sullivan Foundation Award and 2004 Richard F. Gold Career Grant from the Shoshana Foundation.