National Sawdust (NS), the unparalleled artist-led incubator in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, has announced the theme of its third season: Origins. Bringing its progressive values to the forefront, the non-profit assembles an extraordinary lineup of multicultural curators from six continents, whose programming celebrates diversity in culture through diversity in music.
“Resist!” could be the 21st-century motto of Handel’s serenata Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, a mythological story of steadfast love cleverly interpreted by the director Christopher Alden as a modern-day tale of bullying and manipulation. The staging, co-produced by countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, Cath Brittan, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and National Sawdust, completes its brief run this week.
A curator at National Sawdust from its inception, Anthony Roth Costanzo fashioned one of the most striking presentations of the young organization’s inaugural season with ‘Orphic Moments.’ Now, Costanzo returns to offer Handel’s ‘Aci, Galatea e Polifemo,’ a seldom-encountered dramatic serenata, staged by Christopher Alden, one of the opera world’s most insightful, inventive directors.
“My approach was that, instead of genre, we should talk about community,” Vijay Iyer told a near-capacity crowd that filled a local community center in Ojai, California, on a hazy but pleasant Thursday afternoon in early June. The audience had gathered to get to know Iyer: a celebrated composer, improviser, pianist, and bandleader, and the music director of the 2017 Ojai Music Festival. What distinguished a community, he explained, is that it is intergenerational, and continually renewing. The resulting aesthetic, he said, might be one of “openness, welcome, and tolerance.”
Nine Doors, a full length, multilingual, ritual music drama by Jen Shyu, came about as the result of a self-issued artistic challenge. “I wanted to write for as big a group as I could,” Shyu says, “and then distill it down to a solo.” The new project will have its premiere on June 29 in two concerts at National Sawdust, co-presented with World Music Institute and in association with Asia Society.
“Our mission, our goal as an ensemble, is to play percussion music that we feel is as good as any other chamber music for any other instruments that is being written now, and get it in front of people who have never heard it before,” Ian Rosenbaum declares of Sandbox Percussion, the esteemed quartet of which he’s a member. The group appears at National Sawdust on June 7, playing works by Christopher Cerrone and Timo Andres.
Percussionist Matt Cook and composer Ellen Reid have known each other since their days as graduate students at CalArts, and have been regular, close collaborators ever since. Reid is in residence at National Sawdust this season, and this week brings an east coast rendezvous when Los Angeles Percussion Quartet performs Reid’s Fear | Release during the group’s New York debut concert, at National Sawdust on June 1.
Yellow Barn, the famously intrepid summer chamber music festival, is bringing the concept of “taking the show on the road” to a new level. In October 2015, the center introduced Music Haul, a mobile stage in the back of a truck that allows Yellow Barn’s musicians to perform virtually anywhere it can travel to. Having already visited Boston, Baltimore, and Dallas, Music Haul is undertaking its most ambitious voyage yet: “Music No Boundaries: NYC,” a nine-day residency.
As both a member of the highly regarding Mivos Quartet and as a solo artist in her own right, cellist Mariel Roberts has demonstrated an affinity for uncompromising music and a capacity for making even the most challenging works sing. Composer Eric Wubbels is among the numerous beneficiaries of Roberts’s advocacy – his gretchen Am Spinnrade, a duo for cello and piano, is featured on Roberts’s new CD, Cartography, with Wubbels himself at the piano. In advance of an album-release concert at National Sawdust on May 19, as well as a New York Philharmonic Contact! program that includes Wubbels’s katachi coming up at National Sawdust on May 22, the two sat down recently at a neighborhood café to compare experiences and agendas.
For all that his large-scale works have commanded the spotlight over the last decade or so, David Lang initially burst into the public eye and ear with pithy, concise, and clever chamber works… On ‘thorn,’ an appealing new CD by flutist Molly Barth, Lang’s puckish instrumental miniatures assume center stage.