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Gidon Kremer and the art of the small orchestra

October 30, 2010 |  8:30 am

GidWhen Gidon Kremer, the great and inquiring Latvian violinist, turned 50 in 1997, he had already had his share of midlife crises, including putting down the violin for a brief period and going off on a personal quest to India. He’s not the red sports car type and already possessed a priceless violin. So he founded a chamber orchestra and named it after himself, Kremerata Baltica. His intention was to break down any musical barriers still standing, delve even more deeply into the essence of music than he already had, have a little fun and presumably get precise GPS bearings on the fountain of youth.

Kremer has pretty much managed all of the above. His ensemble of young players from the Baltic has brought to vibrant life a treasury of spiritually intense Eastern European music (with detours by way of Argentine New Tango, American and British Minimalism and Russo/Korean stand-up comedy). The Kremerata has this month added to its important discography not one but two profound, pioneering CDs on different labels. The players also tour restlessly: They will appear with Kremer on Monday at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.

Thirteen years later, the average age of Kremerata’s players somehow remains 27. No need to talk about the future of classical music when Kremer boasts this renewable source of probing, versatile and, it so happens, exceptionally attractive young musicians.

But if we are to talk about the future of classical music in America, sooner or later, the Knights will come up. Around the time that Kremer created his Kremerata, two music students in New York, the brothers Eric and Colin Jacobson, a violinist and cellist, organized informal chamber music evenings they called “The Knights of the Many-Sided Table.” This eventually turned into a Brooklyn-based chamber orchestra of young musicians with a modern sensibility, a wide repertory of works new and old, along with a crusading musical mission of bringing classical music into clubs.

Colin conducts. Eric is concertmaster. The Knights too have a new CD. And the brothers will soon have a presence in Orange County as well. They are members of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, which will be in residence for the Laguna Beach Music Festival in February.

For the full critic's noterbook on these two exciting groups, click here.

--Mark Swed

Photo: Gidon Kremer. Credit: ECM

 

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