Albany Pro Musica Features Ola Gjeilo and American String Quartet

Ola Gjeilo_AmericanStringQuartet3:00 pm • Sunday, October 29th 2017
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall • Troy, NY

This weekend begins with the Frobenius Organ Concert featuring Jillian Gardner on Friday evening in Saratoga where you can also catch the Saratoga Chamber Players playing around on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, albeit for different age groups. On Saturday evening, with just a quick drive to the Berkshires, you’ll find the Crescendo Vocal Ensemble giving their nod the legacy of Martin Luther—his own revolutionary music and words in settings of German Renaissance and Baroque motets, choruses and chorales. On Sunday afternoon, you can jump forward a few centuries to the choral world of the contemporary Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo with Albany Pro Musica at The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.

Albany Pro Musica‘s (APM) Artist Series opens the acclaimed choral ensemble’s 37th season with an evocative concert featuring Gjeilo’s music who is currently serving as APM’s Composer-In-Residence. Ola Gjeilo, as pianist, will be joining the chorus for the performance. The concert program entitled “Across the Vast, Eternal Sky” draws upon one of the titles that have given Gjeilo his international fame and cinematic signature sound.

In addition to featuring Albany Pro Musica a cappella with Gjeilo’s work, the venerable American String Quartet [Peter Winograd and Laurie Carney, violin; Daniel Avshalomov, viola; and Wolfram Koessel, 'cello] joins pianist Gjeilo and the chorus after performing one of their signature Beethoven masterworks.

The full program is to include:

  • Ola GjeiloPrelude, The Spheres, and Northern Lights (a cappella)
  • Ola GjeiloUbi Caritas (chorus with piano improvisation by Oja Gjielo)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven — String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor,  Op. 95 (“Serioso”)
  • Ola GjeiloDark Night of the Soul (piano quintet with chorus)
  • Ola Gjeilothe ground (piano quintet with chorus)
  • Ola GjeiloSacred Heart (chorus with string quartet)
  • Ola GjeiloAcross the Vast, Eternal Sky (piano quintet with chorus)
  • Ola GjeiloLuminous night of the soul (piano quintet with chorus)

If one is not familiar with the work of Ola Gjeilo, this is a great introduction to his choral music as Albany Pro Musica, with Artistic Director José Daniel Flores-Caraballo at the helm, literally provides a full immersion. As Paul Lamar writes in his program notes, “There is an arc to the program. We begin with three a cappella pieces, continue with one with piano accompaniment, introduce the string quartet, and then, in the second half, show off the combined forces. By the end of the concert you should be familiar with Gjeilo’s musical intentions….”

The program also highlights how Gjeilo views the role of the piano in his choral writing by providing two book-end examples in the second half of the program:

Dark Night and Luminous Night of the Soul are influenced by a wish to feature the piano more heavily in choral music, not as generic, unassuming accompaniment, but as an equal partner to the choir, aided and supported by the string quartet. Though most of all, I just wanted to attempt to find ways to compose lush, warm, symphonic-sounding music, while still only scoring for five instruments, in addition to the choir.” —Ola Gjeilo, composer

This is of particular interest to me as I work with a two duos that include piano and continually battle the balancing the piano’s role to maintain that “equal partnership” one wants to maintain in chamber music vs. “accompaniment.” Thus, the importance of the term “collaborative pianist” vs. “accompanist.”

If you would like to learn more about Ola Giello and the program, take a listen to two interviews with the composer and José Daniel Flores-Caraballo. The first is with WMHT’s classical music host Rob Brown speaking with Ola Gjeilo (click here to listen via WMHT), and the second is WAMC’s host of The Roundtable, Joe Donahue, talking with both Gjeilo and Flores-Caraballo (click here to take a listen via WAMC). Both are quite interesting.

And, if that’s not enough to inspire you to attend Albany Pro Musica’s concert on Sunday, take a listen to one of my favorites below … Dark Night of the Soul.  Hope you enjoy, and I hope you can go. Regardless… Happy Musicking this weekend!

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