Brooklyn Rider – the Acclaimed String Quartet – Joins Mercury Classics for an Exclusive Partnership

Brooklyn Rider
Mercury Classics

First Brooklyn Rider album on Mercury Classics will be A Walking Fire – featuring works by Bartók, Ljova and the group’s own Colin Jacobsen – To Be Released April 30

“Brooklyn Rider stands out for its consistent refinement, globe-spanning stylistic range, do-it-yourself gumption and integration of standard repertory works into the mix.”
The New York Times

“Brooklyn Rider is re-creating the 300-year-old form of the string quartet as a vital and creative 21st-century ensemble.”

February 14, 2013 (New York, NY) Brooklyn Rider, the American string quartet lauded for its electrifying performances and progressive vision, has joined Universal Music’s Mercury Classics label in an exclusive partnership. The first album – A Walking Fire, to be released April 30, 2013 – reflects the artistic independence and enterprising mix of classic quartet literature and new works that have earned the foursome of violinist Johnny Gandelsman, violinist Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords and cellist Eric Jacobsen such wide acclaim. A Walking Fire features a seminal string quartet by Béla Bartók alongside new works by contemporary Russian-American composer Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin and Brooklyn Rider’s own Colin Jacobsen.

Following the Mercury Classics philosophy, this partnership aims to support Brooklyn Rider in gaining an ever-expanding worldwide audience, while allowing the group’s artistic work to remain uncompromised and its autonomy untouched. All releases will be co-branded with In a Circle, the imprint started by Brooklyn Rider violinist Johnny Gandelsman in 2008.

Dr. Alexander Buhr, managing director of Mercury Classics, says: “Brooklyn Rider are creative spirits in the truest sense. With dedication and artistic integrity, they have championed the grand string quartet tradition and have reinvented it as a powerful, imaginative experience for our time. We are very excited to welcome them to Mercury Classics.” 

Brooklyn Rider violist Nicholas Cords says: “As itinerant musicians, we believe that getting underneath the surface of a musical tradition other than the one we inherit can be life-changing. All of the works on A Walking Fire are unique products of this kind of encounter, and we are thrilled to take our listeners along for the ride. The sense of embarking on a shared journey also seems a fitting way to celebrate an exciting new partnership with Mercury Classics.”

A Walking Fire resonates with this spirit of wide-eyed exploration and passionate creation. The album includes Brooklyn Rider’s signature interpretation of Bartók’s String Quartet No. 2, a work the Hungarian composer and musical explorer wrote during the years of World War I. Ranging from the jaunty and playful to the lyrical and funereal, Ljova’s Culai channels the sound and spirit of Nicolae Neacsu, nicknamed “Culai,” the late violinist-vocalist of the famed Gypsy ensemble Taraf de Haïdouks. Colin Jacobsen’s Three Miniatures for String Quartet is an irresistibly lyrical musical fantasy stemming from the composer’s appreciation of the close connection between music, poetry and the visual arts in Persian culture – an appreciation gleaned from Jacobsen’s friendship with Persian master musician Kayhan Kalhor.

According to Brookyn Rider, A Walking Fire “takes us on a guided expedition to three legendary musical centers. With stops in the Romanian village of Clejani, World War I-era Budapest and the fragrant gardens of Esfahan, this album celebrates the transformative nature of travel and its potential to act as a creative catalyst.”

Brooklyn Rider
According to Time Out New York, Brooklyn Rider is an ensemble that “demystifies contemporary classical music and invites everyone into the tent.” At home in both clubs and concert halls, the quartet has appeared in venues as varied as New York City’s Lincoln Center and Joe’s Pub, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Japan’s Todai-ji, the Library of Congress and the South By Southwest Festival. In the 2012-13 season, Brooklyn Rider has presented works by Stravinsky, Bartók, Beethoven and Mendelssohn, as well as world premieres by Colin Jacobsen, Shara Worden, Vijay Iyer, Gabriel Kahane, Nick B?rtsch, Padma Newsome, Greg Saunier, Ethan Iverson, Bill Frisell and John Zorn.

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. Brooklyn Rider has worked with such composers as Glass, Ljova, Derek Bermel, Lisa Bielawa, Osvaldo Golijov, Jenny Scheinman, Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky and Evan Ziporyn. Another integral part of the quartet’s work involves creative collaborations with other artists, such as 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, banjo player Béla Fleck and singer/songwriters Christina Courtin and Suzanne Vega. The group has previously released Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass on the composer’s Orange Mountain Music label, as well as the acclaimed 2008 recording Silent City on World Village/Harmonia Mundi.

Mercury Classics
Mercury Classics, part of Universal Music Group, is an artist-and-repertoire center that aims to work with creative talents who can bring a fresh, distinctive perspective to classical music – whether they are young artists approaching the music in a new way or established musicians outside the field curious about exploring the genre. The label builds on Universal Music’s existing Mercury brand. Famous since the 1940s for vibrantly progressive music-making in pop, jazz, folk and classical, and later for its prize-winning classical label Mercury Living Presence, Mercury remains an icon of recording history. In this spirit, Mercury Classics is highly focused, developing projects of artistic integrity that step toward redefining classical music for the 21st century.