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Release: May 17, 2001
Kronos/Upshaw premiere in Hancher launched international tour and recording
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Kronos Quartet and American opera/art song diva Dawn
Upshaw premiered their world folk-music collaboration, "Tonight is the
Night," on May 3, 2000, as the final event in the Millennium Festival
presented by the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium.
A concert featuring eight world premieres, "Tonight is the Night"
was titled after the Indian film music that opened the program, and featured
original compositions based on folk sources by Argentine composer Osvaldo
Golijov and Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz. Hancher commissioned the Ortiz
composition, "Baalkah" (World), for the Millennium Festival.
The concert also included a globe-spanning series of traditional songs arranged
especially for Kronos and Upshaw. The songs originated in Portugal, Spain,
Egypt, India and even the Stephen Foster song "Ah, May the Red Rose Live
Because the collaboration combined Kronos with a very busy vocal artist,
Hancher was one of only six select locations in the United States and Europe
privileged to present the performance. The concert production traveled from
the Iowa City premiere to Berkeley and Irvine, Calif.; New York City; London,
England; and Prague in the Czech Republic.
This spring, Kronos and Upshaw are reuniting in the recording studio to
prepare some of the works from the "Tonight is the Night" concert
for future release on the Nonesuch label.
Joshua Kosman wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that the concert at the
University of California-Berkeley was "mesmerizing and full of surprises"
and Upshaw was "full-voiced and musically attentive."
"Kronos continues to expand the boundaries not only of its repertoire
but of its technical mastery as well," Kosman wrote. ". . . the
level of musicianship on display was stellar."
Veteran critic Mark Swed wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Fearlessly
they trek, seeming to be guided by nothing but the spirit of adventure. .
. But what makes their tour so immensely enjoyable is that they always travel
as Kronos and Upshaw, as themselves, taking in the world through their own
likable personalities, ever the wide-eyed Americans.
"It is perhaps the musical equivalent of those amusing travelogues
by Michael Palin, where we better understand the world by seeing it reflected
in someone else."
The recipient of Hanchers commission, Gabriela Ortiz, was born in
Mexico City and studied in Mexico, the United States and England. Her work
combines the European art-music tradition with Mexican folk music and jazz,
spiced with an interest in pre-Colombian culture. The Hancher commission was
supported by Procter & Gamble and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Kosman described her "Baalkah" as "a brilliant and densely
wrought five-movement setting of various Mayan religious writings," but
Swed felt that "scholarship and archeology got in the way," commenting,
"Ortiz tried to re-create a lost culture through very modern means, exploiting
many of the formulaic sound effects that Kronos excels in and asking the group
to play small cymbals as well."
Since its inception in 1973, Kronos has emerged as a leading voice for new
work, without boundaries. More than 400 works have been written or arranged
for Kronos, including numerous works commissioned by Hancher Auditorium for
Iowa premieres. The quartets "Pieces of Africa" CD, which
became the largest selling string quartet recording in history, originated
in an African-theme concert in Hancher.
Upcoming Hancher/Kronos projects include a South American program next season,
and a NASA-commissioned world premiere during Hanchers 30th-annivesary
season, 2002-2003, using UI space scientist Donald Gurnetts recordings
of space sounds as the inspiration for a composition by minimalist pioneer
Upshaw has become one of the worlds most celebrated singers -- spanning
opera, art-song recitals, popular songs, musical theater, recordings and television
broadcasts -- noted for her commitment to performances of new music. She starred
on the recording of Henryk Goreckis Symphony No. 3, which became the
largest-selling recording of contemporary classical music ever, with sales
of more than a million copies.
Golijov was born in Argentina, and also lived in Jerusalem before moving
to the United States in the mid-1980s. A New York Times review described the
two-time Friedheim Award winner as "a musical alchemist who conjures
up new worlds." He visited the UI last fall for the Kronos performance,
with Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer, of his award-winning "Dreams
and Prayers of Isaac the Blind."
Hanchers season-spanning Millennium Festival featured more than 20
major commissions in music, theater and dance. In addition to the "Baalkah"
new works were created by artists including theater visionary Robert Lepage;
choreographers Twyla Tharp, Ushio Amagatsu, Bill T. Jones, UI alumnus Lar
Lubovitch, Susan Marshall, Paul Taylor, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; and composers
Richard Danielpour, Paul Schoenfield, Cedar Rapids native Michael Daugherty
and UI alumnus David Lang with his Bang on a Can associates.
Performances involved American Ballet Theatre, Twyla Tharp Dance, the Australian
Chamber Orchestra, Bang on a Can, the Ethos Percussion Group, the Alvin Ailey
American Dance Theatre, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Sankai Juku, the Bill
T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Ahn Trio and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson
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