Brooklyn Rider extends classical music history at Howard Community College

Brooklyn Rider extends classical music history at Howard Community College
From left Nicholas Cords, Colin Jacobsen, Michael Nicolas ,and Johnny Gandelsman are the members of Brooklyn RIder. (Courtesy Photo/Erin Baiano)

Candlelight Concert Society’s next program has a something old/something new quality. That’s because the classical music ensemble known as Brooklyn Rider balances two works from the standard repertory with two contemporary works for its concert on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. in Howard Community College’s Smith Theatre.

As its name indicates, this string quartet is based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Since forming at the Stillwater Music Festival in 2006, it has devoted itself to playing recently composed classical music compositions. It’s also devoted to creative collaborations with performers and composers from other musical genres. In other words, Brooklyn Rider mostly looks to the future of classical music, and it’s a future that encompasses expanding the traditional definition of what to expect at a chamber music concert.


Comprised of cellist Michael Nicolas, violist Nicholas Cords and violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, Brooklyn Rider’s musical philosophy is epitomized by its 2016 album “So Many Things.” That album’s music includes pieces by contemporary American composer John Adams and Brooklyn Rider’s own Colin Jacobsen, as well as such non-classical composers as Sting, Elvis Costello, Bjork, Rufus Wainwright and Kate Bush.

Even when Brooklyn Rider’s albums more or less remain within the classical realm, as in its 2011 album “Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass,” it’s very much in the spirit of the classical music avant-garde. And the group’s new album, “Spontaneous Symbols,” features creatively venturesome classical composers.

Recent live-performance collaborations are just as eclectic, with the on-stage performers in various programs including choreographer Brian Brooks, New York City Ballet dancer Wendy Whelan, jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman and banjoist Bela Fleck.

As one might expect for a string quartet aiming to expand our sense of classical music, Brooklyn Rider has had a number of teaching posts and residencies, among them the University of North Carolina, Williams College and Dartmouth College.

The best place to teach, of course, is on a concert stage. Brooklyn Rider has performed on some of the most famous stages in the classical music world, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, as well as such creatively envelope-pushing venues as Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, and the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas.

Where the concert stage at HCC’s Smith Theatre is concerned, the group has put together a program that is designed to cover the spectrum from the 18th- and 19th-century standard repertory to works from the 21st century.

Mozart’s String Quartet No. 14 in G Major was composed in 1782. Nicknamed the “Spring” Quartet, it’s the first of the six so-called Haydn Quartets, in which the young Mozart honors the influence exerted by the older composer Joseph Haydn.

Composed in 1810, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 in F minor received its first performance in 1814. This concise piece is packed with so many then-controversial experiments with structure and tone that Beethoven himself felt that his innovations were ahead of what the Viennese musical public wanted to hear. Indeed, Beethoven wrote in a letter: “The Quartet is written for a small circle of connoisseurs and is never to be performed in public.”

The radical nature of the Beethoven string quartet makes it a thematically satisfying selection for Brooklyn Rider to play at its upcoming public performance in Columbia. Moving from the 19th century to the present, the group performs two contemporary pieces: Evan Ziporyn’s “Qi,” and Brooklyn Rider’s own Colin Jacobsen with “BTT.”

The Chicago-born Ziporyn is known as a performer on the clarinet and bass clarinet, and as a composer his wide-ranging interest in world music includes specializing in the Balinese gamelan. A founder of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Ziporyn is very active with recording and touring.

As a violinist, Colin Jacobsen has numerous performance credentials including being part of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. His classical music history-spanning activities as a composer and performer make it apt that he has a violin made in 1696 and a second violin made in 2008.

Brooklyn Rider performs on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. at Howard Community College’s Smith Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Prkwy in Columbia. Tickets are $35. Call 410-997-2324 or go to