The adventurous, genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider combines a wildly eclectic repertoire with a gripping performance style that is attracting legions of fans and drawing critical acclaim from classical, world and rock critics. NPR credits Brooklyn Rider with "recreating the 300-year-old form of string quartet as a vital and creative 21st-century ensemble." The musicians play in venues as varied as Joe's Pub and Alice Tully Hall in New York City, Todai-ji Temple in Japan, Library of Congress, San Francisco Jazz and the South By Southwest Festival. Through creative programming and global collaborations, Brooklyn Rider illuminates music for its audiences in ways that are "stunningly imaginative" (Lucid Culture).
During the 2011–12 season, Brooklyn Rider celebrates its Carnegie Hall debut at Zankel Hall, embarks on two U.S. tours and its first trip to China, with concerts in Beijing and Hong Kong. This past season Brooklyn Rider appeared at Lincoln Center for the first time as part of the inaugural Tully Scope Festival. Additional highlights included a European tour with Persian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor and North American tours in the fall and winter culminating in a presentation by the Washington Performing Arts Society in D.C. The musicians performed at the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, and enjoyed the release of Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass on the composer's Orange Mountain Music label, which was selected as one or NPR Classical's Best Albums of the Year (So Far).
In recent seasons, Brooklyn Rider has appeared at the Cologne Philharmonie, American Academy in Rome, Malmö Festival in Sweden, Spoleto Festival USA, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia and SXSW Festival as the only classical group invited to play there. The Los Angeles Times reviewed one of the concerts from an extensive cross-country tour, saying, "The dazzling fingers-in-every-pie versatility that Brooklyn Rider exhibits is one of the wonders of contemporary music."
Born out of a desire to use the rich medium of the string quartet as a vehicle for communication across a large cross section of history and geography, Brooklyn Rider is equally devoted to the interpretation of existing quartet literature and to the creation of new works. The musicians have worked with such composers as Derek Bermel, Lisa Bielawa, Ljova, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, Jenny Scheinman and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, and they also regularly perform pieces written or arranged by members of the group. Another integral part of their work involves creative collaborations with other artists. Some recent special guests include Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, Syrian/Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad, traditional and technology-based Japanese shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki, Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes, the trio 2 Foot Yard, and singer/songwriters Christina Courtin and Suzanne Vega. Courtin's widely released debut album on the Nonesuch label features several tracks with the quartet, as does Vega's new album,Close Up 2: People & Places. A long-standing relationship between Brooklyn Rider and Kayhan Kalhor resulted in the critically acclaimed 2008 recording, Silent City, on the World Village/Harmonia Mundi label, selected by Rhapsody.com as one of World Music's Best Albums of the Decade.
Brooklyn Rider often appears under the umbrella of outside initiatives begun by all four members of the group. In 2003 violinist Johnny Gandelsman created In A Circle, a series of performance events in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn that explore connections between music and the visual arts. He launched In A Circle Records in 2008 with the release of Brooklyn Rider's eclectic debut recording, Passport, followed by Dominant Curve in 2010. Both albums made NPR's year end round-ups: Best Classical CDs of 2008and 50 Favorite Albums of 2010. The recordings have received glowing reviews from Gramophone, Strings, The Strad and Huffington Post, as well as the online indie magazines Pitchfork, Vice, Nerve and Lucid Culture. "Forgive the hyperbole," wrote Strings, "but I've seen the future of chamber music and it is Brooklyn Rider."
Brothers Colin and Eric Jacobsen are co-founders of The Knights, a New York-based orchestra in which all the members of Brooklyn Rider play. The quartet also founded the Stillwater Music Festival (MN) in 2006 as a place to unveil new repertoire and collaborations. As educators, Brooklyn Rider has enjoyed residencies at Williams College, MacPhail Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Texas A&M University, Denison University and University of North Carolina, as well as Sewanee Summer Music Festival and Laguna Beach Chamber Music Festival.
Much of Brooklyn Rider's desire to extend the borders of conventional string quartet programming has come from their longstanding participation in Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble. As individual members of the ensemble, they have performed throughout the world, recorded three albums for Sony Classical, and taken part in educational initiatives, family concerts and media broadcasts. Members of Brooklyn Rider have been involved in a series of museum residencies initiated by the Silk Road Project at the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum Reitberg in Zurich, and the Nara National Museum in Japan. They have also participated extensively in Silk Road Ensemble residencies at Harvard University and the Rhode Island School of Design.
A public radio favorite, Brooklyn Rider has been featured on NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts, All Songs Considered, Deceptive Cadence and All Things Considered, WNYC's Soundcheck, and American Public Media's Performance Today, as well as NY1 News TV in New York City. Their recordings are played across North America on stations ranging in focus from classical to world, jazz, pop and new music.
The quartet's name is inspired in part by the cross disciplinary vision of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a pre World War I Munich-based artistic collective whose members included Vassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Arnold Schoenberg and Alexander Scriabin. In this spirit, Brooklyn Rider has created an online art gallery that showcases the work of some of their friends. Proceeds are used to support new commissioning projects. In the eclectic spirit of Der Blau Reiter, the group also draws inspiration from the exploding array of cultures and artistic energy found in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City, a place they call home.