The Knights

The Knights

Sun, June 17, 2018, 4:00pm


Brooklyn-based and Grammy-nominated orchestral collective The Knights return to Caramoor for an evening of innovative, exciting, and elegant orchestrations. The program features steel pan percussionist and fantastic young composer Andy Akiho performing his Fantasy for Steel Pans and Orchestra, Judd Greenstein’s Flute Concerto written for The Knights’ flutist Alex Sopp, works by the French masters Ravel and Fauré, as well as a selection of dances from On the Town in celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s centennial.

“Few ensembles are as adept at mixing old music with new as the dynamic young Brooklyn orchestra” — The New Yorker

The Knights
Eric Jacobsen, conductor
Andy Akiho, steel pans
Alex Sopp, flute


Ravel Le tombeau de CouperinAndy Akiho Fantasy for Steel Pans and Orchestra
— Intermission —Fauré Pavane, Op. 50
Judd Greenstein Flute Concerto
Bernstein Three Dance Episodes’ from On the Town

Complimentary Garden Listening Tickets for Members at the Family Level and above

The Knights

The Knights

Artist Website Listen

The Knights are a collective of adventurous musicians, dedicated to transforming the orchestral experience and eliminating barriers between audiences and music. Driven by an open-minded spirit of camaraderie and exploration, they inspire listeners with vibrant programs that encompass their roots in the classical tradition and passion for artistic discovery. The orchestra has toured and recorded with renowned soloists including Yo-Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw, Béla Fleck, and Gil Shaham, and have performed at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, and the Vienna Musikverein.

The Knights evolved from late-night chamber music reading parties with friends at the home of violinist Colin Jacobsen and cellist Eric Jacobsen. The Jacobsen brothers, who are also founding members of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, serve as artistic directors of The Knights, with Eric Jacobsen as conductor. The Knights are committed to creating unusual and adventurous partnerships across disciplines; they perform in traditional concert halls as well as parks, plazas, and bars, all in an effort to reach listeners of all backgrounds and invite them into their music-making. Since incorporating in 2007, the orchestra has toured consistently across the United States and Europe.

The Knights are proud to be known as “one of Brooklyn’s sterling cultural products…known far beyond the borough for their relaxed virtuosity and expansive repertory” (The New Yorker).

The Knights have had an exciting 2017-18 season, a highlight of which was a U.S. tour with genre-defying Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital and Syrian clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh. Tour repertoire came from around the world, with arrangements and transcriptions by the artists themselves, and features the world premiere of Azmeh’s Triple Concerto for Clarinet, Mandolin, Violin and Orchestra. The Knights’ will complete their second Home Season in Brooklyn, in partnership with the downtown venue BRIC, presenting family concerts, evening performances, and a characteristically wide-ranging roster of guest artists. Programs include a collaboration with Puerto-Rican composer Angelica Negrón on her drag opera, a night of German lieder with Katja Herbers, as well as an exploration of the pervasive influence of Eastern European folk music. The Knights’ 2017 summer season encompassed a world premiere by composer Judd Greenstein and an East Coast premiere by Vijay Iyer; their tenth consecutive appearance in Central Park’s Naumburg Orchestral Concerts series; their fourth year at Tanglewood, a performance at the Ravinia Festival with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham; and a collaboration with choreographer John Heginbotham at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

In 2015, The Knights launched a partnership with BRIC with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As part of that initiative, The Knights performed with master violinist Gil Shaham on a North American tour, and on Shaham’s Grammy-nominated recording of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto. This partnership was continued when The Knights’ launched their first Brooklyn Home Season in 2016-17, in residence at BRIC. Each Home Season residency includes evening performances, family concerts, and engagement programs for local audiences, families, and public school students. The residencies allow The Knights to incubate their artistry and explorations at home, expanding connections within communities through music, before representing the best of Brooklyn around the globe. October saw the orchestra’s Opening Weekend, with a musical program featuring Master Peter’s Puppet Show, a multimedia concert with visual artist Kevork Mourad. December’s concerts celebrated a Brooklyn Schubertiade, showcasing local artists in an intimate salon evening of art, poetry, and music, where Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon read the world premiere of a new poem, set to music by The Knights. February’s program highlighted the world premiere of a new work by Andy Akiho, winner of the 2015 Rome Prize; and April showcased mainstays of classical canon alongside new Brooklyn composers, including works by Haydn, Mozart, and Gabriel Kahane.

The 2016-17 season saw the release of the celestial-themed album Azul on Warner Classics with longtime collaborator Yo-Yo Ma; an EP release with Gabriel Kahane of his song cycle Crane Palimpsest; a debut at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center as part of the inaugural “SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras;” and the New York premiere of Sarah Kirkland Snider’s song cycle Unremembered, which The Knights also performed at Tennessee’s Big Ears Music Festival. They rounded out the season with a European tour, which took them to the Easter Festival at Aix-en-Provence for six performances with celebrated guest artists pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Bertrand Chamayou, and violinist Renaud Capuçon; along with three concerts across Germany, including one at the new Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg where the ensemble’s performance was lauded as one of the best in the new hall (Hamburg Abendetter).

Counted among the highlights from recent seasons are: a performance with Yo-Yo Ma at Caramoor; the recording of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto on master violinist Gil Shaham’s Grammy-nominated 2016 release, 1930’s Violin Concertos, Vol. 2, as well as a North American tour with Shaham; residencies at Dartmouth, Penn State, and Washington DC’s Dumbarton Oaks; and a performance in the NY PHIL BIENNIAL along with the San Francisco Girls Chorus (led by composer Lisa Bielawa) and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, which featured world premieres by Rome Prize-winner Bielawa, Pulitzer Prize-winner Aaron Jay Kernis, and Knights violinist and co-founder Colin Jacobsen. The ensemble made its Carnegie Hall debut in the New York premiere of the Steven Stucky/Jeremy Denk opera The Classical Style, and has toured the U.S. with banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, and Europe with soprano Dawn Upshaw. In recent years The Knights have also collaborated with Itzhak Perlman, the Mark Morris Dance Group, Joshua Redman, Silk Road virtuoso Siamak Aghaei, and pipa virtuoso Wu Man. Recordings include 2015’s “instinctive and appealing” (The Times, UK) the ground beneath our feet on Warner Classics, featuring the ensemble’s first original group composition; an all-Beethoven disc on Sony Classical (their third project with the label); and 2012’s “smartly programmed” (NPR) A Second of Silence for Ancalagon.

The Knights’ roster boasts remarkably diverse talents, including composers, arrangers, singer-songwriters, and improvisers, who bring a range of cultural influences to the group, from jazz and klezmer to pop and indie rock music. The unique camaraderie within the group retains the intimacy and spontaneity of chamber music in performance.

The Knights are proud to be known as “one of Brooklyn’s sterling cultural products…known far beyond the borough for their relaxed virtuosity and expansive repertory” (The New Yorker). The unique camaraderie within the group retains the intimacy and spontaneity of chamber music in performance. Through the palatable joy and friendship in their music-making, each musician strives to include new and familiar audiences to experience this important art-form.


Colin and Eric Jacobsen

Eric Jacobsen, Artistic Director, conductor, and cellist

Artist Website Listen  Watch

Hailed by The New York Times as “an interpretive dynamo,” conductor and cellist Eric Jacobsen has built a reputation for engaging audiences with innovative and collaborative programming projects. Jacobsen is co-founder, Artistic Director, conductor, and cellist of The Knights. Also a founding member of genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider, he is credited with helping to ensure “the future of classical music in America” (Los Angeles Times). In December 2012, Jacobsen was selected from among the nation’s top visual, performing, media, and literary artists to receive a prestigious United States Artists Fellowship.

Jacobsen founded The Knights with his brother, violinist Colin, to foster the intimacy and camaraderie of chamber music on the orchestral stage. As conductor, Jacobsen has led the “consistently inventive, infectiously engaged indie ensemble” (The New York Times) at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the 92nd Street Y, to Central Park’s Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, and (Le) Poisson Rouge, as well as the Vienna Musikverein, Dresden Musikfestspiele, Cologne Philharmonie, Düsseldorf Tonhalle, and the National Gallery of Dublin.

In the 2015-16 season, Jacobsen celebrated his inaugural season as Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic and his second season as both Music Director of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony and Artistic Partner with the Northwest Sinfonietta.

Also in demand as a guest conductor, Jacobsen led Camerata Bern in the first European performance of Mark O’Connor’s American Seasons, with the composer as soloist. He has conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with soloist Wu Man, the Alabama Symphony, the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra in Columbus, Ohio, the Deutsche Philharmonie Merck, and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. In the 2015-16 season, Jacobsen celebrated his inaugural season as Music Director of the Orlando Philharmonic and his second seasons as both Music Director of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony and Artistic Partner with the Northwest Sinfonietta.

A dedicated chamber musician, Jacobsen is a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, participating in residencies and performances at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hollywood Bowl, and across the U.S., as well as in Azerbaijan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and Switzerland. With Brooklyn Rider, dubbed “one of the wonders of contemporary music” (Los Angeles Times), he has taken part in a wealth of world premieres and toured extensively in North America and Europe.


Colin Jacobsen, Artistic Director, violinist, and composer

Artist Website Watch

As the Washington Post observes, violinist and composer Colin Jacobsen is “one of the most interesting figures on the classical music scene.” A founding member of two game-changing, audience-expanding ensembles — the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and orchestra The Knights — he is also a touring member of Yo-Yo Ma’s venerated Silk Road Project and an Avery Fisher Career Grant-winning violinist.

Colin Jacobsen has grown as a composer through his chamber and orchestral collaborations and has written for Brooklyn Rider, Siamak Aghaei, Compagnia de’ Colombari, and Dance Heginbotham.

Jacobsen’s work as a composer developed as a natural outgrowth of his chamber and orchestral collaborations. Jointly inspired by encounters with leading exponents of non-western traditions and by his own classical heritage, his most recent compositions for Brooklyn Rider include Three Miniatures — “vivacious, deftly drawn sketches” (The New York Times) — which were written for the reopening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Islamic art galleries. Jacobsen collaborated with Iran’s Siamak Aghaei to write a Persian folk-inflected composition, Ascending Bird, which he performed as soloist with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House, in a concert that was streamed live by millions of viewers worldwide. His work for dance and theater includes Chalk and Soot, a collaboration with Dance Heginbotham, and music for Compagnia de’ Colombari’s theatrical production of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.


Andy Akiho

Andy Akiho, steel pans

Artist Website Listen  Watch

Described as “mold-breaking,” “alert and alive,” “dramatic,” and “vital” by the New York Times, Andy Akiho is an eclectic composer and performer of contemporary classical music. Recent engagements include commissioned premieres by the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble ACJW; a performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; and three concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Akiho has been recognized with awards including the 2014-15 Luciano Berio Rome Prize, the 2015 Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund, a 2014 Fromm Foundation Commission from Harvard University, the 2014 American Composers Orchestra Underwood Emerging Composers Commission, a 2014 Chamber Music America (CMA) Grant with the Friction Quartet and Jenny Q. Chai, a 2012 CMA Grant with Sybarite5, the 2012 Carlsbad Composer Competition Commission for the Calder Quartet, and the 2011 Finale & ensemble eighth blackbird National Composition Competition Grand Prize. Additionally, his compositions have been featured on PBS’s News Hour with Jim Lehrer and by organizations such as Bang on a Can, American Composers Forum, and The Society for New Music.

Andy Akiho is an eclectic composer and performer of contemporary classical music who has been recognized with awards including the 2014-15 Luciano Berio Rome Prize, the 2015 Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund, a 2014 Fromm Foundation Commission from Harvard University.

Akiho was born in 1979 in Columbia, South Carolina, and is based in New York City. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina (BM, performance), the Manhattan School of Music (MM, contemporary performance), and the Yale School of Music (MM, composition). Akiho is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in composition at Princeton University. He has attended the Aspen Music Festival, Heidelberg Music Festival, HKUST Intimacy of Creativity Festival, Bang on a Can Festival, Silicon Valley Music Festival, Yellow Barn Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest Festival, and Avaloch Farm Music Institute, where he is the Composer-in-Residence. Akiho’s debut CD No One To Know One, on Innova Recordings, features brilliantly crafted compositions that pose intricate rhythms and exotic timbres around his primary instrument, the steel pan.


Alex Sopp

Alex Sopp, flute

Artist Website Listen

Alex Sopp is a musician and artist living in Brooklyn.

As the flutist of yMusic, The Knights, and NOW Ensemble, the New York Times has praised her playing as “exquisite” and “beautifully nuanced.” Comfortable in many genres, Alex has commissioned, premiered, and recorded with some of the most exciting composers and songwriters of our time, including Nico Muhly, Sufjan Stevens, Ben Folds, Jonsí of Sigur Ros, Philip Glass, Paul Simon, Andrew Norman, Bruce Hornsby, Son Lux, Gabriel Kahane, St. Vincent, Anohni, Judd Greenstein, José González, My Brightest Diamond, The Dirty Projectors, and The National. A sought-after soloist, Alex made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Youth Symphony, and has appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of David Robertson. In addition to her three main musical families, she plays frequently as a guest with the International Comtemporary Ensemble (ICE), and has made regular appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Deutsche Kammerphilarmonie Bremen, the Mariinsky Orchestra, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the Louisiana Philharmonic.

In addition to playing the flute, Alex is a singer and a visual artist. Most recently, she has appeared as a multi-disciplinary performer and singer in theater director John Tiffany’s production of “The Ambassador.”

In addition to playing the flute, Alex is a singer and a visual artist. Most recently, she has appeared as a multi-disciplinary performer and singer in theater director John Tiffany’s production of “The Ambassador,” a staged song cycle written by Gabriel Kahane. Her voice can also be heard on several albums, including the yMusic + Ben Folds collaboration, So There. In addition to several handmade stop-motion animation films used as music videos, Alex’s paintings grace the covers of records by such artists as Ben Folds and The Knights, and can be seen in private collections

Alex grew up in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. She completed both her Bachelors and Masters degrees at The Juilliard School.

From the Artistic Directors.

We’ll do the best we know,
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
and make our garden grow…

— Leonard Bernstein (from Candide)

In this year in which the world celebrates the centennial of the great composer, conductor, educator, and humanist, we’re so honored to come back to Caramoor and perform in our favorite garden of great music! We know that the special soil of Caramoor has given rise to some of our best musical projects — including our Grammy-nominated collaboration with Gil Shaham of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto. The last time we were here in fall of 2015, we performed Osvaldo Golijov’s transcendent cello concerto Azul, performed with Yo-Yo Ma, right before recording the work in one of the most memorable musical experiences of our lives.

To continue the horticultural metaphor; it is part of The Knights’ mission to give space and care for new flowers of the musical art to grow alongside the beauty of perennials like Ravel, Fauré, and Bernstein. Today’s program is no exception, as we perform two thrilling new works by two of today’s brightest stars of contemporary music: Andy Akiho and Judd Greenstein. Knights flutist Alex Sopp is the virtuosic protagonist in Judd Greenstein’s effervescent new Flute Concerto. Andy Akiho, a composer/performer like Bernstein, brings his deep knowledge of the Trinidadian steel pan to bear in his Fantasy for Steel Pans and Orchestra, effectively expanding the orchestral color palette.

These are set in relief with two of the most exquisitely crafted works by the French master Fauré (his Pavane) and his pupil Ravel (Le Tombeau de Couperin). We conclude with Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town which helps underscore the dance character of all the music on today’s program: from the courtly and nostalgic (Fauré and Ravel), to the hard-hitting and propulsive rhythms underpinning Akiho’s Fantasy; the fleet-footed, interlocking textures of the Greenstein, and the Big Lights/ Big City razzle-dazzle of On the Town. What better place to play and dance than the garden of earthly delights that is Caramoor?

— Colin Jacobsen and Eric Jacobsen, Artistic Directors of The Knights


About the Music.

1875 – 1937

Le Tombeau de Couperin

As we approach the centennial of Bernstein’s birth, we also have a darker anniversary this year — that of the end of World War 1, the supposed Great War to end all wars. (Would that it were true!) But instead, we have Bernstein to thank for an artistic response to a later violent episode, the assassination of JFK. “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, and more devotedly than ever before,” said Bernstein. In a piece like Ravel’s Tombeau, we see that statement realized perhaps to its fullest. A truck driver for the 13th Artillery of the French army in World War I, Ravel dedicated each movement of the Suite to a friend who had died at the front. One of the most tender of war tributes, Ravel’s original six movement suite for piano, harkens back to the French Baroque dance forms of composers like Couperin. Instead of rage and tragedy, we get a quiet grace and beauty as a response to the barbarity of war. The tender care for this piece carried on into his orchestration of four of the movements. This orchestration still constitutes a virtual textbook on how to use the instruments of the orchestra to their fullest individual character as well as the possibilities for their coloristic blend.

— Colin Jacobsen


b. 1979

Fantasy for Steel Pans and Orchestra

The steel pan was the catalyst that led me to become a composer. I was first introduced to the instrument at the University of South Carolina in 1997, where I studied percussion performance under Jim Hall. After I finished my studies in 2001, I made four extensive visits to Trinidad to immerse myself in the culture of the music. I returned several times in subsequent years to study and perform with two pioneers of the instrument — Len “Boogsie” Sharpe and Ray Holman. Encouraged by my experiences in Trinidad, I moved to the Caribbean community in Brooklyn, NY, in 2003. While in New York City, I had the opportunity to perform and learn from some of the most inspirational pan innovators including Scipio Sargeant, Eddie Quarless, Clive Bradley, and Freddy Harris III. Their positive influences ultimately led me to the Manhattan School of Music in 2007 where I began to compose new art music that often integrated the steel pan in combination with traditional classical instruments.

My goal with this piece, and with my other pieces involving the steel pan in combination with traditional classical instruments, is to create sonorous textures that explore the frontiers of the instrument. I often find that compositions incorporating the steel pan outside of the pure Calypso and Soca genres use the instrument as a novelty gimmick without realizing the instrument’s full potential. I believe that the steel pan is an extremely versatile instrument capable of producing both an extraordinarily unique timbre and contributing to a homogenous orchestral texture. The configuration of the steel pans in this concerto consists of a “tenor pan” (soprano range: one instrument = one pan) centered between a set of “double seconds” (alto range: one instrument = two pans). These three pans are combined to create an extended range of three fully chromatic octaves from the E below middle C to the E above the treble staff. There is also an optional fourth pan that is used only for percussive effects: rim clicks and “skirt” (side of the pan) hits.

Fantasy for Steel Pans and Orchestra premiered on December 9, 2010 by the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale.

—Andy Akiho


1825 – 1924

Pavane in F-sharp Minor, Op. 50

Like Le Tombeau de Couperin, Fauré’s Pavane began its life as a piano solo and as an homage to an old dance form — in this case the Pavane, a slow and stately processional dance which has its origins in the courts of Italy and Spain in the Renaissance. Dedicated to his patron, the Countess Greffulhe, he orchestrated it and added an optional chorus part at her suggestion. After its premiere in the late 1880’s in its piano and orchestral version, a further choreographed version was made for the Countess which had its premiere at a garden party at the Bois De Boulogne in 1891. Fauré always considered it an “elegant, but not otherwise important” piece. Posterity has judged it in a far kinder light, as Fauré’s ability to spin out deceptively simple melodic lines over subtly shifting harmonies have made the Pavane one of the most enduringly popular pieces in the orchestral repertoire.

— Colin Jacobsen


b. 1979

Flute Concerto

When I was a teenager and a very young composer, I loved concertos. And it makes sense — you couldn’t invent an art form that more literally reflects the adolescent search for individual identity, the sense of “me versus the world,” than the classic concerto.

Twenty-something years later, I’m far from an adolescent, but I finally get to write my own concerto. The Flute Concerto recalls that youthful spirit in a few ways, particularly in allowing itself to be a concerto, in the old, grand sense of the term. Despite the relative brevity of the piece, it goes through the three traditional Fast-Slow-Fast movements, pitting the orchestra against the soloist and featuring all the handoffs, tuttis, cadenzas, and other hallmarks that you’d expect from the form. Those little details are part of what makes writing a concerto fun, and I didn’t want to miss that opportunity — I’ve been waiting 25 years for this!

The Flute Concerto is also about the less confrontational side of the flutist/orchestra relationship, since both of the flutists who commissioned the work — Alex Sopp of The Knights and Colleen Blagov of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra — are members of the orchestra that will play behind them. The piece begins with a series of conversations and partnerships between the flute and other members of the orchestra. These continue throughout the concerto, in dialogue with the more traditional approach, until by the end the piece brings the two together and the flutist can finally take a breath, and a well-deserved bow.

My deepest thanks to Alex and Colleen, and to Eric Jacobsen, for making this project come to life.

— Judd Greenstein


1918 – 1990

“Three Dance Episodes” from On the Town

Writes Bernstein, “It seems only natural that dance should play a leading role in the show On the Town, since the idea of writing it arose from the success of the ballet Fancy Free … The story of On the Town is concerned with three sailors on 24-hour leave in New York, and their adventures with the monstrous city which its inhabitants take so for granted.”

The first episode is “Dance of the Great Lover” in which the romantic sailor Gabey falls asleep on the subway and dreams of sweeping Miss Turnstiles off her feet; the effervescent music underlines Gabey’s naiveté as well as his determination. In the second episode, “Pas de Deux,” Gabey watches a scene, “both tender and sinister, in which a sensitive high-school girl in Central Park is lured and then cast off by a worldly sailor.” This is set to “Lonely Town” — one of Bernstein’s greatest tunes, worthy of his friend and mentor Aaron Copland in its air of reflective melancholy. The finale, “Times Square Ballet,” is described by Bernstein as “a more panoramic sequence in which all the sailors congregate in Times Square for their night of fun.” Part of the action takes place in the Roseland Dance Palace, with music to match. The famous “New York, New York, it’s a helluva town” theme makes a cameo appearance.

— Colin Jacobsen