Violinist Olivia De Prato (Mivos Quartet) releases this wide ranging release of music for solo violin and violin and electronics. Included are works by a broad cross section of some of the most versatile and interesting composers active today: Reiko Füting, Missy Mazzoli, Taylor Brook, Ned Rothenberg, Victor Lowrie, and Samson Young.
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Vespers for Violin
Austro-Italian violinist Olivia De Prato has been an active performer in New York City’s contemporary music community since moving there in 2005. As a member of critically acclaimed ensembles, the Mivos Quartet, Ensemble Signal, and Victoire, De Prato has been invoved in commissioning, premiering, and recording countless new compositions, with a range of figures spanning the diverse landscape of new music. STREYA is a document of some of that work, with a program of six beguiling pieces by figures from Manhattan School of Music composition department member Reiko Füting to avant-garde improviser extraordinaire Ned Rothenberg to Mannes School of Music faculty and composer/songwriter/bandleader Missy Mazzoli. The works and performances herein display De Prato’s versatility as well as the flexible reach of programming in today’s New York concert community. Samson Young’s Ageha.Tokyo deftly merges extended timbres on the violin with electronics that mine a vocabulary that places the listener in a futuristic technological landscape. As the work opens we hear the violin struggling to come out of its cocoon so to speak, as its sound endeavors to fully project past self-imposed restrictions. Lowrie’s Streya contains some of the most conventionally violinistic music on the recording. Lowrie is De Prato’s viola partner in Mivos, and her husband, and displays his versatility as a composer with this music, in turns reminiscent of the solo violin music of Bartok and Ysaye while also exploring more fragile territory evocative of Sciarrino. Ned Rothernberg leans on his background as a free jazz clarinetist to generate a through composed piece that retains a sense of spontaneity. In his liner note, Rothenberg desribes the piece as akin to a short hike that extends itself into various new directions. The excursion that initially was intended to be a short walk has turned into something more — an adventure. In Wane, Taylor Brook takes advantage of multi-tracking possibilities by embellishing a lead violin part with four additional pre-recorded “shadow” violins, all tuned slightly differently (and all recorded by De Prato). When played together, an effect of what Brook calls an “amalgamated glissando” can be heard, coloring the primary violin in an unsettling halo of pitch. As the violin writing becomes more dense and virtuosic, one finds themselves in a disconcerting sonic hall of mirrors. Reiko Füting’s Tanz.Tanz is based on an analysis of Bach’s towering Chaconne in D minor from the Second Partita for unaccompanied violin. The analysis, by German musicologist Helga Thoene posits that Bach integrated hidden chorale tunes into the harmonic fabric of this iconic piece. Füting’s title is inspired by a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The presence of a work inspired by Bach’s canonic compositions for solo violin connects this collection to the long tradition of unaccompanied violin repertoire. Missy Mazzoli’s Vespers for Violin draws material from her larger ensemble work Vespers for a Dark Age. Sampled keyboards, organs, voices, and strings “drenched in delay and distortion” provide the pre-recorded accompaniment to the solo violin part. Slithering glissandi begin the work, interspersed with quick scale bursts. Despite the wealth of source materials from the earlier work, the new piece is an entirely distinct composition that demonstrates Mazzoli’s ease in navigating the worlds of experimental pop, indie classical, and corners in between. The work is an expansive coda to an album that casts a wide stylistic net through the prism of a treasured genre, works for solo violin.
Internationally recognized as a soloist and chamber musician, Austro-Italian violinist Olivia De Prato has been described as “flamboyant...convincing” (The New York Times) and an “enchanting violinist” (Messaggero Veneto, Italy). After moving to New York City, she quickly established herself as a passionate performer of contemporary and improvised music, breaking boundaries of the traditional violin repertoire, and regularly performs in Europe, South America, China, and the United States.
Her chamber music activities include appearances the Bang on a Can Marathon in NYC, the Lucerne Festival with Pierre Boulez, the Ensemble Modern Festival, June in Buffalo, the Wien Modern Festival, the Shanghai New Music Week, and Lincoln Center Festival with Steve Reich and Brad Lubman. In 2010 and 2011 she toured Europe and South Africa with Grammy-award winner Esperanza Spalding and the Chamber Music Society ensemble on violin and viola.
Olivia is a member of the new music ensembles Signal and Victoire and is the co-founder and first violinist of the Mivos Quartet, which focuses on the performance of contemporary string quartets.
As a guest artist, she has presented solo and chamber music masterclasses for young musicians and composers at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, UC San Diego, Princeton University, New York University, University of Nevada Las Vegas, and internationally at Universidad Eafit (Colombia), Shanghai Conservatory (China), Universidad Salvador (Brazil), Yong Siew Toh Conservatory (Singapore), and MIAM University (Turkey).
Olivia has collaborated closely with composers Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Pierre Boulez, Anthony Braxton, Chaya Czernowin, Peter Eötvös, Luca Francesconi, Beat Furrer, Dai Fujikura, Michael Gordon, Helmut Lachenman, David Lang, Brad Lubman, Philippe Manoury, Benedict Mason, Meredith Monk, Krystof Penderecki, Bernard Rands, Steve Reich, Ned Rothenberg, Julia Wolfe, and Georg Friedrich Haas. At the Lucerne Festival Academy 2007 she worked with composer Peter Eötvös on his new Violin Concerto "Seven" conducted by Pierre Boulez.
Her discography includes recordings on Tzadik, New Amsterdam Records, Sunnyside Records, New Focus Recordings, Mode, Cantaloupe, Porter Records, and Harmonia Mundi. She also self-released a live recording of Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto with the Filarmonica de Staat Sibiu (Romania).
Olivia De Prato studied at the University of Music and Arts in Vienna and received her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from the Eastman School of Music. She received her Master of Music as a member of the first graduating class from the Contemporary Performance Program at the Manhattan School of Music.
Composer Samson Young received his PhD in composition from Princeton University and his music has been presented at various festivals including Manchester International Festival (UK), Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt (Germany), Austin’s Fusebox Festival (Texas), and the Lucerne Festival (Switzerland).
Victor Lowrie is a versatile violist, improviser and composer based in New York City. As a passionate advocate of new music, he has appeared as a soloist, chamber musician and educator throughout the United States, South America, Europe and Asia. Victor is a founding member of the Mivos Quartet, and performs regularly with Ensemble Signal, Slee Sinfonietta and the Wet Ink Ensemble among others. He can be heard on recordings from Carrier, New Amsterdam, Kill Rock Stars, New Focus Recordings, and Tzadik Records. As a composer, Victor writes for soloists and chamber ensembles, combining a ever-evolving personal sense of melody and harmony with explorations into improvisation and electronics. He earned his Bachelor of Music performance from San Francisco State University, and was the inaugural graduating class of the Master in Contemporary Performance program from the Manhattan School of Music. Victor grew up on the idyllic central coast of California and currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife Olivia and their son.
Composer/Performer Ned Rothenberg has been internationally acclaimed for both his solo and ensemble music, presented for the past 33 years on 5 continents. He performs primarily on alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, and the shakuhachi - an endblown Japanese bamboo flute. His solo work utilizes an expanded palette of sonic language, creating a kind of personal idiom all its own. In an ensemble setting, he leads the trio Sync, with Jerome Harris, guitars and Samir Chatterjee, tabla, works with the Mivos string quartet playing his Quintet for Clarinet and Strings and collaborates around the world with fellow improvisors. Recent recordings include this Quintet, The World of Odd Harmonics, Ryu Nashi (new music for shakuhachi), and Inner Diaspora, all on John Zorn's Tzadik label, as well as Live at Roulette with Evan Parker, and The Fell Clutch, on Rothenberg’s Animul label.
Taylor Brook has studied composition with Brian Cherney in Montreal, Luc Brewaeys in Brussels, and George Lewis, and Georg Haas in New York. Brook has also studied Hindustani musical performance in Kolkata, India, with Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya. His music is often concerned with finely-tuned microtonal sonorities and toying with multifarious musical references and styles.
Brook writes concert music, music for video, and music for theater and dance. His work has been performed around the world and has been described as “gripping” and “engrossing” by the New York Times. Brook has won numerous awards and prizes for his compositions, including the MIVOS/Kantor prize, the Lee Ettelson award, and several SOCAN young composers awards including the grand prize in 2016. Brook has been a finalist in the Gaudeamus prize and was awarded honorable mention for the Jules Leger prize two years in a row. His music has been performed by ensembles and soloists such as the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Quatour Bozzini, JACK Quartet, MIVOS quartet, Talea Ensemble, Ascolta Ensemble, and many others.
Brook's current projects include a new piece for New Thread Saxophone Quartet and a new string quartet for the JACK quartet. Brook holds a master’s degree in music composition from McGill University. He currently resides in New York City, where he is completing a doctorate in music composition at Columbia University and working as a freelance composer.
Reiko Füting was born in 1970 in Königs Wusterhausen in the German Democratic Republic. He studied composition and piano at the Dresden Conservatory (Germany), Rice University, Manhattan School of Music, and Seoul National University (South Korea). Some of his most influential teachers have been Jörg Herchet and Nils Vigeland (composition), and Winfried Apel (piano). In addition to being a composer, he is an avid performer who has appeared in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Since 2000, Füting has been teaching composition and theory at Manhattan School of Music, where he serves as the chair of theory department. He has also taught vocal accompanying at the Conservatory of Music and Theater in Rostock, Germany, and appeared as guest faculty and lecturer at universities and conservatories around the world.
Missy Mazzoli was recently deemed “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” (The New York Times) and “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart” (Time Out New York). Her music has been performed all over the world by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, pianist Emanuel Ax, Opera Philadelphia, LA Opera, Cincinnati Opera, New York City Opera, Chicago Fringe Opera, the Detroit Symphony, the LA Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, JACK Quartet, cellist Maya Beiser, violinist Jennifer Koh, pianist Kathleen Supové, Dublin’s Crash Ensemble, the Sydney Symphony and many others. Her second opera, Breaking the Waves, a collaboration with librettist Royce Vavrek commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and Beth Morrison Projects, premiered to great acclaim in Philadelphia in September 2016 and as part of New York’s Prototype Festival in January 2017. The work was described as “among the best 21st-century operas yet” (Opera News), “savage, heartbreaking and thoroughly original” (Wall Street Journal), and “dark and daring” (New York Times). From 2012-2015 Missy was Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera and Music Theatre-Group, and in 2011/12 was Composer/Educator in residence with the Albany Symphony. Missy was a visiting professor of music at New York University in 2013, and later that year joined the composition faculty at the Mannes College of Music, a division of the New School.
“A Strikingly Accessible, Dynamic Solo Album from Mivos Quartet Violinist Olivia De Prato”
Olivia De Prato is a founding member of the perennially fearless Mivos Quartet and one of the most highly sought-after violinists in new music. Her technique is stunning: depending on the needs of a piece, she can deliver flash, nuance, lyricism or the kind of acidity that one often finds in the edgy kind of repertoire the quartet specializes in. And all of the above, as does throughout her new solo album “Streya”, streaming at New Focus Recordings. She’s playing the album release show on March 13 at 7:30 PM at the second-floor space at 1 Rivington St. at the corner of Bowery. Cover is $20.
The opening number, Samson Young’s Ageha.Tokyo gives De Prato a vast playground to air out her extended technique and effects pedals: crunching lows, enigmatic microtonal swoops, jarring scrapes, twinkly electronics, rhythm-shifting loops and subtle variations on a disarmingly simple central theme. You could call parts of this cello metal – although it’s not played on one.
The title track, a diptych by her Mivos Quartet bandmate, violist Victor Lowrie is a fragmented study in extreme dynamics: whispery harmonics, caustic close harmonies, brooding lyricism side by side with splashes of pizzicato and austere washes. Playing this to open the quartet’s show last month at the Miller Theatre, De Prato didn’t make it look easy, but clearly relished the challenge of Lowrie’s constant gear-shifting. The second half is calmer and disarmingly catchy.
Ned Rothenberg’s Percorso Insolito is a picturesque, shapeshifting pastorale that De Prato builds from a quasi-stroll to cheerily soaring flights as the sun lights up the hillside. Taylor Brook’s slow, methodically crescendoing, microtonally rich Wane is constructed out of cleverly assembled multitracks: what appear to be echoey, furtive glissandos are actually simultaneous smeared notes from the five individual voices, each in a different tuning. There’s more reverb on this piece than the others, amping up the wash of delicious overtones.
In its jaunty octaves and variations, Reiko Fueting’s Tanz.Tanz rather obliquely references both the chorale riffs woven into the famous Bach Chaconne, and also the Haruki Marakami novel Dance Dance Dance. The final piece is Missy Mazzoli’s Vespers for Violin, based on her intense, dramatic chamber work Vespers For a New Dark Age. But aside from the arresting, opening echo phrases, this electroacoustic work is considerably different, mournful motives leaping and lingering against a somber deep-space backdrop. Either De Prato is singing vocalese here, or she’s running her violin through a vocal patch. Spin this colorful mix for any curmudgeon who might dismiss avant garde music as shrill or pointless.
— delarue, New York Music Daily, 3.7.2018
I’ve seen Olivia De Prato perform with Missy Mazzoli and she’s the kind of player that stands out in a crowd, dazzling with her utter command of even the most demanding techniques and the sheer expressive verve she puts into the music. Her work with the adventurous Mivos Quartet, which she founded, has also been exemplary. So, I was delighted when word of this solo debut came over the transom and even happier when I saw it was mostly world-premiere recordings of works written in the last decade.
The opening piece, Ageha.Tokyo, written by Samson Young, could hardly be more spectacular if fireworks shot out of my earbuds while it played. Starting with some tactile, serrated sounds, De Prato enters with defiant notes which gain momentum and then start to soar as the electronics begin rounding out and growing more melodic. The verse of My Favorite Things threatens to burst out but Young keeps it at bay and things are soon back on the aggressive side. Young named the work after one of the largest gay nightclubs in Tokyo and it doesn’t take much of a leap to imagine a beat-driven remix lighting up their dance floor. Young, based in Hong Kong, has a number of intriguing irons in the fire of electronic music and performance art and I’m grateful for this introduction to his world.
Streya by Victor Lowrie, who plays viola in the Mivos, finds us in more familiar terrain, with De Prato in an angular duet with herself. Circular phrases spin into the ether, replaced by harmonic whistles or sharp strums, as the piece moves toward the anguished romanticism of early Schoenberg. Percorso Insolito is described by Ned Rothenberg as “an adventure in rhythm, space and color,” and it also has a nice meandering, interior quality, like a train of thought that never quite resolves. I know Rothenberg’s work mainly via his earthy sax playing so this was a valuable glimpse of his other interests.
Taylor Brook’s Wane takes a smart idea - five multi-tracked violins, each in a slightly different tuning - and uses it to spin a kaleidoscopic tale in sound that has as many twists and turns as a good mystery. Rather than a bang-up finish where all is revealed, Brook prefers to leave questions unanswered with a woozy finish that shuffles uncertainly into silence. For more Brook check out the last Mivos album or the TAK Ensemble's Ecstatic Music, which focuses solely on his work. Tanz.Tanz by Reiko Füting is also based on an intellectual construct, in this case a study of the Chaconne from Bach’s D Minor Partita, but maybe only a musicologist would know that from listening. I hear a tightly constricted approach, both in the palette of notes and in the length of the lines, that intrigues due to all it leaves out. The premiere recording of Tanz.Tanz was by Miranda Cuckson on an album of Füting's work released in 2015 called “namesErased”, which I'm looking forward to investigating.
Missy Mazzoli’s Vespers For Violin closes the album and will undoubtedly leave you wanting more. A distant cousin of her stunning Vespers For A New Dark Age, it has Mazzoli’s characteristically assured electronic textures combined with an incantatory violin part that De Prato brings to life with, as everything here, her wondrous playing and total commitment to the visions of her collaborators. “Streya” is not only a fantastic debut for De Prato but also an object lesson in how to put together a solo violin record in 2018, from the selection of pieces, to the recording, and even to the artwork - kudos!
— Jeremy Shatan, An Earful, 3.17.2018
Olivia de Prato, an Austro-Italian violinist based in Brooklyn, initiates her discography with Streya, an anthology of contemporary pieces by composers few but specialists will have heard of. According to a liner note by the composer Reiko Füting, the solo Tanz. Tanz derives from Bach's celebrate [sic] Ciaconna from the Violin Partita No. 5 in D minor. Though that baroque tour de force is something of a CoD signature piece, I couldn't detect no [sic] trace of it. But the catalogue of virtuosic effects—slashing, picking, buzzing, bouncing off the strings—is astounding, all the more so for the lightness and delicacy De Prato folds in to sections that simply explode.
— Matthew Gurewitsch, 3.27.18, Beyond Criticism
Vespers, the traditional late afternoon prayer service, gets an enigmatic twist in a new video by director James Darrah, premiered here, with music from Missy Mazzoli, performed by the spirited violinist Olivia De Prato. The track is from her new album, Streya.
The narrative, shot in slow-motion, opens with dancer Sam Shapiro's character, heavy with sleep, stirring on a sun-drenched morning. It mysteriously unfolds as a kind of barefoot vision quest in the Mojave Desert, progressing from morning to mid-day, from a flaming sunset to a nighttime bonfire, and finally back to daylight. In a final, inscrutable shot, Shapiro takes a drag from a cigarette and turns to the camera.
Could it all be just a dream?
The music is less ambiguous, though deliciously disorienting in its own right. Mazzoli extracted strings, voices and organ sounds from her 2015 suite Vespers for a New Dark Age, suffused them with a wash of electronics and fronted them with a soaring solo violin. De Prato — violinist for Mazzoli's band Victoire and co-founder of the Mivos Quartet — opens with a raspy thread of tone, emerging from a haze to shift between elastic, slithery scales and punchy flourishes, gradually reaching the upper register of her instrument while a scrim of ethereal voices wafts by.
Darrah, who directed Mazzoli's well-received 2017 opera Breaking the Waves, may have constructed his own cryptic vision of the traditional evening vespers — but in the music, there's no mistaking that De Prato and Mazzoli are out to dismantle it.
— Tom Huizenga, 4.3.2018, Deceptive Cadence, NPR Classical