How World War I made Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 a Japanese New Year’s tradition

Since 1999, the Seattle Symphony has made a tradition of playing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on New Year’s Eve. But a fondness for ringing in the new year with the Ninth began decades before that in an unexpected corner of the world: Japan.

Seattle Symphony principal trombonist Ko-ichiro Yamamoto recalls playing the Ninth nearly a dozen times in late 2003 while freelancing with Tokyo’s famed NHK Symphony, as well as another major Japanese orchestra.

A second-generation professional trombone player, Yamamoto said his father, Tatsuo, recalled performing the Ninth with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra on more than one occasion. “I’m sure that right now,” Yamamoto said, “some orchestra is playing Beethoven’s Ninth in Tokyo.”

In Japan, the German composer’s last symphony is nicknamed “Daiku” or “Big Nine.” According to The Japan Times, in December of 2009 there were 55 performances of the Ninth in Tokyo; on some occasions, the chorus has ranged from 6,000 to 10,000 voices for the famed “Ode to Joy” in the final movement. “Daiku” is the last scheduled performance for three of Tokyo’s most prestigious orchestras this year.

Japan wasn’t introduced to Western classical music until the late 19th century but didn’t waste time catching up — Tokyo, Japan’s largest city, has more professional symphonies than Berlin. But how did Beethoven’s Ninth become a national favorite?

In 1914, a colony of German soldiers living in Tsingtao, a city on the eastern shore of China, was captured by Japanese soldiers. World War I had erupted and Japan sided with Great Britain and the rest of the Allies. At the time, Tsingtao was a major German military base and Japan demanded its surrender. When Germany refused, Japan invaded and detained almost 4,000 soldiers as prisoners of war.

About 1,000 of those German soldiers were sent to Bando, a POW camp in Naruto, located in Japan’s Tokushima Prefecture. The soldiers occupied their time in a variety of ways, from printing a camp newspaper to supervised jaunts to local sights, as well as forming an orchestra.

The Ninth was a favorite among the POWs and the so-called “Bando orchestra” performed the piece inside the camp on a makeshift stage. After the war ended, the former POWs performed the Ninth outside Bando’s walls for an audience in Naruto; in 1927, the piece was performed in its entirety by the Shin Kokyo Gakudan (or New Symphony Orchestra), now known as the NHK Symphony Orchestra.

The Ninth continued to grow in popularity. On Dec. 31, 1940, a Polish conductor led a Japanese ensemble in a live radio performance of the Ninth to commemorate the creation of Japan. By the 1960s, the Ninth sold out concert halls across Japan as more musicians and choristers tried to tackle the difficult notes and German lyrics.

Using verse from a popular German poem titled “Ode to Joy,” Beethoven completed the Ninth in 1824. At its premiere in Vienna that same year, the composer’s health was worsening by the day — most scholars agree he was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver — and he was almost completely deaf. A performer onstage had to turn Beethoven around to see the standing ovation from the crowd.

Simon Woods, president of the Seattle Symphony, said the composition is especially fitting for the end of the year with its broody, dark first movement and its exuberant finale.

I think the journey that the piece is on, from the first movement to the last movement, is a symbolic journey,” Woods said. “I think that’s why it often plays a transitional role. It carries you through.

 

 

 

The Los Angeles Philharmonic presents West Coast premiere of Unsuk Chin’s opera “Alice in Wonderland,” featuring Libretto co-written with David Henry Hwang

David Henry Hwang. Photo by Lia Chang

 

Backstage Pass with Lia Chang:

The Los Angeles Philharmonic presents the West Coast premiere of Unsuk Chin’s daring Alice in Wonderland at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Friday and Saturday, February 27 and 28, at 8 pm. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Get Directions Online). Click here for tickets.

The ground-breaking, fully-staged opera, written by composer Unsuk Chin and Tony Award winning playwright David Henry Hwang, America’s most-produced living opera librettist who is best known for his critically acclaimed Puccini-inspired Broadway play M. Butterflyoffers a new remix of the Lewis Carroll story.

Under the guidance of director/designer/video artist Netia Jones and with visual material derived from the illustrations of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas gonzo-artist Ralph Steadman, Alice in Wonderland offers the audience a collision of styles and influences set on a black and white chessboard floor and featuring the orchestra as part of the set. Jones combines Steadman’s illustrations with live action, interactive animated projections that inhabit the scene alongside the performers, eye-popping costumes and choreography to bring to life Chin’s brilliant take on the Carroll fantasy.

Conductor Susanna Mälkki

Conductor Susanna Mälkki leads the LA Phil in Alice in Wonderland. The cast includes soprano Rachele Gilmore as Alice and other performers listed below. The performance also features members of the Los Angeles Opera Chorus and the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus.

Susanna Mälkki, conductor
Netia Jones, director, costume and set design
Ralph Steadman, illustrations
Netia Jones/Lightmap, projection design
Mark McCullough, lighting designer
Jemima Penny, costume realization
Peggy Hickey, choreographer
Rachele Gilmore, Alice
Marie Arnet, Cheshire Cat
Dietrich Henschel, Mad Hatter
Andrew Watts, White Rabbit/Badger/March Hare
Christopher Lemmings, Mouse/Dormouse
Jenni Bank, Duchess
Jane Henschel, Queen of Hearts
Stephen Richardson, Old Man/Crab/King of Hearts
Nicholas Brownlee, Old Man/Eaglet/Fish-Footman/Off-Stage Voice
Lacey Jo Benter, Owl/Two
Rafael Moras, Pat/Cook/Invisible Man
Kihun Yoon, Five/Executioner/Duck
Andrew Craig Brown, Dodo/Frog-Footman/Seven
David Finch, Bill/Mock Turtle
Julian Bertet, Young Boy
Chris Bonomo, Francisco Cardeña, Cesar Cipriano, Eros Mendoza, Jee Teo, and John Todd, supernumeraries
Members of the Los Angeles Opera Chorus, Grant Gershon, Chorus Director
Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, Anne Tomlinson, artistic director
Michael Vitale, stage manager
Jean-Michaël Lavoie, assistant conductor
Vanessa Dionne, makeup design
Taylor Ruge, assistant director
John Todd, assistant choreographer
Nikki Hyde, assistant stage manager
Lindsay Lowy, assistant stage manager
Ian Winters, video technical consultant
Emma Keaveny-Roys, UK costume assistant
Richard Valitutto, rehearsal pianist

Alice in Wonderland is part of the LA Phil’s new in/SIGHT series, which features concerts enhanced with video installations, and in some cases, additional artistic elements for a complete and immersive experience. The remaining in/SIGHT presentation in the 2014/15 season is: Beryl Korot and Steve Reich’s Three Talesperformed by Ensemble Signal, led by their music director Brad Lubman (May 29, 2015).

As a much sought-after artist on the international conducting circuit, Susanna Mälkki has a versatility and broad repertoire have taken her to symphony and chamber orchestras, contemporary music ensembles and opera houses across the world. She has recently been appointed Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, effective from the 2016/17 season. The 2014/15 season marks Mälkki’s second season as Principal Guest Conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra, which includes a gala opera evening with soprano Karita Mattila, Sibelius’ Tapiola and Mahler’s Symphony No. 9. Later in the season she conducts Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 with Natalia Gutman and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. Also in the 2014/15 season Mälkki debuts with the Philadelphia, Cleveland and New York Philharmonic orchestras, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and La Fenice. In addition, she returns to the San Francisco Symphony, Helsinki Philharmonic and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic orchestras.

Netia Jones

Described by The Observer newspaper as “the most imaginative director of opera working in Britain today” Netia Jones is a director, designer and film-maker in opera, theatre and classical music. A “leading pioneer in integrating film and video into live music performances” (Times), she is the Director of Lightmap, a mixed media creative studio working in the UK, Europe and the U.S.

Recent projects include Curlew River with Ian Bostridge for Lincoln Center, CalPerformances, Carolina Performing Arts, and the Barbican London, Feldman’sWords and Music for Happy Days at International Beckett Festival in Ireland, and Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments for The Royal Opera House. Future projects include a new production of Atthis by Georg Frederich Haas for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Les Illuminations with Daniel Harding for the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and a new staged production of Hans Zender’s orchestral interpretation of Schubert’s Winterreise with Ian Bostridge at the Barbican Theatre.

Unsuk Chin. Photo by Eric Redmond

Unsuk Chin

Unsuk Chin was born in 1961 in Seoul, South Korea, and has lived in Berlin since 1988. Her music has attracted international conductors including Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, David Robertson, Peter Eötvös, Neeme Järvi, Markus Stenz, Myung-Whun Chung, George Benjamin, Susanna Mälkki, François -Xavier Roth, Leif Segerstam and Ilan Volkov, among others. It is modern in language, but lyrical and non-doctrinaire in communicative power. Chin has received many honours, including the 2004 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for her Violin Concerto, the 2005 Arnold Schoenberg Prize, the 2010 Prince Pierre Foundation Music Award, and the 2012 Ho-Am Prize.

She has been commissioned by leading performing organisations and her music has been performed in major festivals and concert series in Europe, the Far East, and North America by orchestras and ensembles such as the Berlin Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Ensemble Modern, Kronos Quartet and Arditti Quartet. In addition, Unsuk Chin has been active in writing electronic music, receiving commissions from IRCAM and other electronic music studios.

In 2007, Chin’s first opera Alice in Wonderland was given its world première at the Bavarian State Opera as the opening of the Munich Opera Festival and released on DVD by Unitel Classica. Her second opera Alice Through the Looking Glass is commissioned by The Royal Opera in London for premiere in the 2018/19 season. Since 2006, Chin has overseen the contemporary music series of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, a series which she founded herself. Since 2011, she has served as Artistic Director of the ‘Music of Today’ series of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. Portrait CDs of her music have appeared on Deutsche Grammophon, Kairos and Analekta.

David Henry Hwang‘s work includes the plays M.ButterflyChinglishYellow FaceGolden ChildThe Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Aida (co-author), Flower Drum Song (2002 revival), and Tarzan. Upcoming productions include two new musicals: The Forgotten Arm, with music and lyrics by Aimee Mann and Paul Bryan, for the Public Theater; and Pretty Dead Girl, with music and lyrics by Anne-Marie Milazzo.

As America’s most-produced living opera librettist, he has written four pieces with composer Philip Glass, including The Voyage (Metropolitan Opera, 1992), as well as Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar (two 2007 Grammy Awards), Bright Sheng’s The Silver River (1997), Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland (2007 “World Premiere of the Year” by Opernwelt magazine), Howard Shore’s The Fly (2008) and Huang Ruo’s An American Soldier (2014). Upcoming operas include Through the Looking Glass with Unsuk Chin for the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Dream of the Red Chamber with Bright Sheng for the San Francisco Opera.

Mr. Hwang penned the screenplays for M. Butterfly (1993), starring Jeremy Irons and John Lone; Golden Gate (1994), starring Matt Dillon and Joan Chen; and Possession (co-writer, 2002), starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. With the pop star Prince, he co-wrote the song “Solo,” released on Prince’s 1994 gold album Come. He is currently writing a feature film for Dreamworks Animation and the film adaptation of Chinglish, to be directed by Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow, the Fast & Furious franchise), as well as creating an original television series, “Shanghai,” for Lions Gate and Bravo.

Hwang is a Tony Award® winner and three-time nominee, a three-time Obie Award winner, and a two-time Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He received the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award, the 2012 William Inge Award, the 2012 Steinberg “Mimi” Award, and the 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award, and recently completed his the Residency One Playwright term at NYC’s Signature Theatre, which produced a season of his plays, including the world premiere of his newest work Kung Fu in February 2014. He serves as President of Young Playwrights Inc, and sits on the boards of the Lark Play Development Center, The American Theatre Wing, and The Actors Fund.

 

Twin Bees – Tina Guo & Ting Guo play the Flight of the Bumble Bee

Buy the Single “Twin Bees“: http://ldr.fm/xqS8E

Tina Guo:

I thought it would be fun to play and record this arrangement of The Flight of the Bumble-Bee for 2 cellos in my living room… I was watching a tutorial this evening on masking in Final Cut and thought it’d be neat to attempt a video with a “clone” (aka twin) after watching some pretty cool samples of people having conversations with themselves and even punching themselves in the face (haha!) Here’s the result of my experimentation! 🙂

iTunes: http://bit.ly/1A8me7e
Physical Albums: http://tinaguo.ecrater.com/

www.TinaGuo.com

NYC EVENT – From China to America: A Musical Journey with Tan Dun and Guests

Tan Dun
Beyond Chinatown:

As part of its Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion exhibition, the New-York Historical Society, U.S. China Cultural Institute, and Cultural Associate of the Committee of 100 presents, on January 10, an evening of contemporary classical music by award-winning Chinese and Chinese-American composers.

From China to America: A Musical Journey with Tan Dun and Guests features a performance and discussion by:

Tan Dun (谭盾 / 譚盾), “most widely known for his scores for the movies Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (卧虎藏龙 /臥虎藏龍) and Hero (英雄), as well as composing music for the medal ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  His works often incorporate audiovisual elements; use instruments constructed from organic materials, such as paper, water, and stone; and, are often inspired by traditional Chinese theatrical and ritual performance.”

Zhou Long (周龙 / 周龍), a Pulitzer Prize winner who “draws upon influences from both musical spheres to create unique and unheard sounds in Western music circles…[and] has been hailed for capturing Chinese timbres and folk themes, yet incorporating them with Western conceptions of harmony, chromaticism and angularity.  He also frequently takes familiar sounds and tunes, alters them through dissonances and thematic twists, making the familiar seem new and unheard.  Known to sometimes create “otherworldly atmospheres” in his compositions, Zhou Long’s compositions imbue listeners with a sense of meditative calmness versus soporific melodies.  Zhou Long is considered a pioneer in the area of combining ancient Chinese musical traditions with contemporary Western ensembles as his visions reach exciting and novel, yet common grounds.”

Chen Yi (陈怡 / 陳怡), “a Chinese violinist and composer of contemporary classical music.  She was the first Chinese woman to receive a Master of Arts (M.A.) in music composition from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. ”  Chen has won many awards and “was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Music for her composition Si Ji (Four Seasons)”

Ying Quartet will pay tribute to composer Chou Wen-chung (周文中) who invited the three composers to the United States and Columbia University is credited as being a pioneer in combining Chinese and Western classical music traditions.

Pianist plays original Nintendo themes after only hearing them once

In the lead-up to the duo’s Indiegogo campaign to fund their YouTube channel “Player Piano” which creates classical arrangements of popular movie and video game soundtracks, pianist and composer Sonya Belousova and director and producer Tom Grey have released this video in their “On The Spot” series demonstrating the full breadth of Belousova’s musical skills.

In this installment, Belousova listens to seven theme songs from classic 8-bit Nintendo games once, before instantaneously putting her own exceedingly complex spin on them via the piano.

Head to the duo’s YouTube channel for more of their high-production videos, and find their Indiegogo crowd-funding page here.

 

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Cellist Maria Ahn of The Ahn Trio ventures out with solo EP, “Je T’aime Bowie”

 

 

Check out Team-Yellow friend and supporter, cellist Maria Ahn of The Ahn Trio on her newly released solo EP, Je T’aime Bowie. The album features Mariah’s virtuosic contemporary Classical stylings on cello, with her renditions of David Bowie‘s hits.

 

Now available on iTunes:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/je-taime-bowie-ep/id871407818

… and CD Baby:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mariaahn

Check out this link:

Cellist Maria Ahn of The Ahn Trio ventures out with solo EP

Video

Ahn Trio to perform at the Seoul Arts Center – May 18th at 2PM

Classical trio phenoms (and Team-Yellow friends) The Ahn Trio head to their homeland of Korea, with a performance at the Seoul Arts Center on May 18th at 2PM!

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Ahn Trio to perform at the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture (PA)

 

For all of our readers in Pennsylvania, go check out Team-Yellow friends The Ahn Trio for their concert this week at the Mercyhurst Institue for Arts and Culture!

Ahn Trio

Walker Recital Hall

Thursday, April 03, 2014 – 7:30 pm

 

 

“With their multicultural assortment of composers and a huge talent, these women have a modernist, fusion sensibility that is perfect for our age.” -The Seattle Times

Witness the three internationally celebrated sisters (Lucia on piano, Angella on the violin and Maria on the cello) fearlessly merge classics with contemporaries for an evening of dynamic music. Pushing boundaries and blurring lines, the Ahn Trio makes the case that this is the new classical music for this century.

The members of the Ahn Trio thrive on dissolving the barriers between art forms and have fused their work with that of dancers, pop singers, DJ’s, painters, installation artists, photographers and even kite makers. Recently, they performed in the Czech Republic with rock group the Tata Bojs to sold-out shows. It’s this unique blend of styles that makes the critically acclaimed Ahn Trio one of the most anticipated artists of the season.

Join us in the lobby of the Walker Recital Hall before the performance for a taste of Spring.

With Summer just around the corner we’ll be hosting our Ahn Trio Community partner, Frankie & May Fresh Grocer, for a sampling of delicious food. To shine light on the bounty of organic foods at your fingertips in the Erie region, Frankie & May will bring samples from their cafe and other local growers.

The 13-14 Season is sponsored by Cumulus Media

 

Ticket Prices:
Adult – $27.00
Senior – $24.00
Youth/Student – $18.00
 

Please visit the box office to see a seating chart.

 

Check out this link:

Ahn Trio to perform at the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture (PA)