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Brooklyn Rider and Gabriel Kahane: The Real Deals

Jan 28, 2016

Brooklyn Rider's collaborators range from Phil Glass and banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck to jazz guitar legend Bill Frisell.

Among the many reasons why you should plan to see Brooklyn Rider on February 4 at The Hartt School is one bittersweet one: it will be among the last opportunities audiences will have to experience the groundbreaking string quartet with its founding membership intact.

Just last week, the quartet announced that cellist Eric Jacobsen will be leaving the group soon to concentrate on his unfolding life as a conductor. This will be the first personnel change in the group since its formation ten years ago. Jacobsen will be succeeded by Michael Nicolas.

The quartet will appear at Hartt’s Millard Auditorium, as part of the Richard P. Garmany Chamber Music Series, now in its seventh season. (Disclosure: I am the series curator.)

Among the additional reasons for checking out the concert: the quartet will be joined by the brilliant, category-defying singer/songwriter/pianist Gabriel Kahane.

Kahane and the quartet will do some things together (his song group “Come on All You Ghosts,” for instance) as well as some things separately, including selections from Kahane’s widely praised album “The Ambassador.” The quartet – just to show that it has, as we say, ample legit chops – will play the Schubert Quartet No. 13, “Rosamunde”.

A lot of ensembles can lay claim to helping change the face of chamber music in our time. Brooklyn Rider’s claim is among the more authentic.

The group’s roster of collaborators ranges from Phil Glass to banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck. Its most recent album, “Almanac,” commissioned new pieces from a truly impressive range of living composers, including jazz masters Ethan Iverson (the cheerfully out-there pianist of The Bad Plus) and guitar legend Bill Frisell. The Almanac project has also embraced an ongoing series of performances and exhibits drawn from the worlds of dance, photography, animation and the written word.

Singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane.
Credit Gabriel Kahane / Facebook

Kahane, meanwhile, is redefining the singer/songwriter category, with music theater pieces, chamber orchestra works, art song cycles, and other far-flung achievements already to his credit. His history-based show “February House,” for which he contributed music and lyrics, received rapturous reviews when it was produced at Long Wharf a few seasons ago, and got similar praise when it subsequently made its way to New York. For tickets visit the Hartt website, or call the box office at (860) 768-4228.

In Memoriam

I’m sorry to note that we’ve recently lost two people who made a deep and lasting impression on the local music scene.

Sallie Ferrebee was a well-known and much admired music educator and advocate, perhaps best known for having co-founded, and for many years co-conducted (with the estimable Rob Hugh) the Connecticut Children’s Chorus. From its origins in 1991 as a single ensemble, the Connecticut Children’s Chorus has grown into a six-ensemble choral empire, serving more than 200 students, from first grade through high school. CCC is a unit of the Hartt School’s Community Division.

Two of my daughters had the privilege of singing in the chorus under Sallie and Rob, and they still recall the experience fondly.

Donations in Sallie’s honor may be made to the Gifts of Music program of the West Hartford Public Schools or to the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools.

Tibor Pusztai died a couple of weeks ago in Maine. He was 69.

As some of you will recall, Tibor was a very visible and versatile presence around here for a number of years in the '80s and early '90s.

At one time or another (and often simultaneously) he was the conductor of the Hartford Chamber Orchestra, associate conductor of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, conductor the Connecticut Valley Chamber Orchestra, and music director of the Manchester Symphony. I know I’m forgetting a few, but you get the idea.

He also served as president of Connecticut Composers, and of the Studio of Electronic Music.

As if all this weren’t enough, Tibor was also a gifted composer as well as teacher of composition.

Tibor was among the more interesting people to talk to about music that I have ever encountered. He had a kind of self-deprecating, hipsterish way of expressing himself, but he was, at his core, a deeply serious artist and committed teacher.

Finally, although he was not a local figure, I call your attention to the passing of Hubert Giraud a couple of weeks ago. Giraud, who was 95, enjoyed, at best, a modest career as a songwriter. But he achieved immortality with the haunting 1951 waltz, “Under Paris Skies,” (Sous le ciel de Paris). Edith Piaf made it a hit, and it has since been recorded by hundreds of singers and instrumentalists. You know you have achieved something significant in this world when your song is interpreted by a roster of artists that includes Coleman Hawkins, Andy Williams, Sam Cooke, John Coltrane, and Liberace.

Reach Steve Metcalf at spmetcalf55@gmail.com.