Episodes:

Naseer Shamma’s Al-Oyoun Ensemble

Hear evocative solos and refreshing new arrangements of Arab music performed by Naseer Shamma and his Cairo-based ensemble. One of the Middle East’s leading ‘ud (lute) virtuosos, Shamma is joined by musicians performing on violin, flute (nay), dulcimer (qanun), cello, and percussion. The concert includes Shamma’s original compositions, Venus and Halat Wajd (Rapture.)

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The Momenta Quartet originally assembled a version ofthe program, “Modern Awakenings: New Music Inspired by Buddhism,” at the request of the Rubin Museum of Art (New York), which specializes in Tibetan Buddhist and other Himalayan art. The Quartet’s members are (left to right) Emilie-Anne Gendron, violin; Adda Kridler, violin; Stephanie Griffin, viola; and Michael Haas, cello.

Modern Awakenings: New Music Inspired by Buddhism

Composers from Malaysia, Japan, China, and the United States explore aspects of Buddhism through music written for string quartet. Formed in 2004, the adventuresome Momenta Quartet has performed often in New York at BargeMusic, Tonic, Le Poisson Rouge, The Stone, Roulette, and Symphony Space. It also serves as the quartet-in-residence at Temple University. This concert was recorded as part of the Meyer Concert Series at the Freer Gallery of Art on November 8, 2012.

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Kayhan Kalhor uses a plucking technique in performing on the traditionally bowed instrument. He and Behrouz Jamali take a bow following their performance at the Freer Gallery on March 17, 2012.

Persian Classical Music:
Kayhan Kalhor, kamanche

Hear this three-time Grammy nominee and original member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble return to his roots in this performance of Persian classical music on kamanche, the traditional Iranian fiddle. Kayhan Kalhor’s fluid and compelling improvisations on the classic Persian modes have brought this venerable music tradition to new heights for audiences around the world. This performance was recorded at the Meyer Auditorium of the Freer Gallery of Art on March 17, 2012.

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The Arirang of Tori: A Korean and American Jazz Collaboration

Hear Korea’s most beloved folksong, “Arirang,” interpreted by seven leading improvisers from Korea and New York. Led by Heo Yoon-jeong on zithers and Ned Rothenberg on reeds, the Tori Project treats five regional styles of “Arirang” to a compelling array of variations and extrapolations. This concert was recorded at the Freer|Sackler on December 8, 2011.

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Sounds of the Dragon: Virtuoso Music for Chinese and Western Instruments

Hear new works for violin, cello, piano, erhu, and pipa composed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Zhou Long; Beijing-based composer Lu Pei; and Chen Yi, winner of the Charles Ives Living Award. Two outstanding ensembles–Music From China and Music From Copland House–join forces for this performance, presented as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series on November 3, 2011.

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Koto Meets Quartet: Yumi Kurosawa and the Lark String Quartet

Hear a gorgeous new concerto for the Japanese koto and Western string quartet by American composer Daron Hagen, who has written works for the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Kings Singers, among many others. Preceding that are two contrasting works for solo koto: a classical piece by seventeenth-century composer Kengyo Yatsuhashi and Yumi Kurosawa’s own new work for the instrument. This concert was recorded in the Freer|Sackler’s Meyer Auditorium as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series on October 13, 2011.

For more on the koto and Yumi Kurosawa, mark your calendar for Look and Listen: Asian Art and Music on June 24, 2020.

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The featured pianists on this podcast are (left to right) Jenny Lin (born in Taiwan), Quynh Nguyen (born in Hanoi), and Xiayin Wang (born in Shanghai). Jenny Lin’s recording of the Shostakovich Preludes was voted Best of 2009 by the Washington Post. Quynh Nguyen won top prize at the International Piano Concerto Competition and now teaches at Hunter College in New York. Xiayin Wang, who has appeared at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, was called “a paragon of virtuosity” by the Washington Post.

Asia on Piano

Enjoy virtuosic arrangements of feisty folk songs from China and Vietnam, along with new music evoking calm landscapes of Asia. These selections are drawn from performances by pianists Xiayin Wang, Jenny Lin, and Quynh Nguyen, who appeared at the Freer Gallery of Art in 2010 and 2011.

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Sukeyasu Shiba’s Gagaku Universe: The Reigakusha Ensemble

Japanese composer Sukeyasu Shiba leads his Reigakusha ensemble in a performance of original and reconstructed music for the ancient royal ensemble known as gagaku. A longtime member of the gagaku orchestra for the Imperial Household Agency, Shiba composes works that revitalize a highly ritualized musical repertoire rarely heard in the West. His ensemble features biwa (lute), koto (zither), shakuhachi (flute), ryuteki (flute), sho (mouth organ), hichiriki (double-reed), and taiko (drum). This performance was part of the thirty-fifth anniversary celebration of Music From Japan, based in New York City, and marked that organization’s twelfth annual program at the Freer Gallery. Recorded in concert February 24, 2010.

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Shanghai Quartet

Hear the world premiere of Vivian Fung’s String Quartet no. 2, commissioned by the Shanghai Quartet, along with Mozart’s String Quartet no. 15 and Beethoven’s monumental Quartet opp. 130/133, performed by one of the world’s leading chamber music ensembles. The Shanghai Quartet has appeared annually at the Freer Gallery of Art since 1996. One of their recent performances inspired the Washington Post to applaud their “self-effacing beauty of sound . . . gorgeous tone with an unwavering unanimity of expressive intent . . . a musical conversation of stunning authenticity and presence.” This concert was recorded before a live audience as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series on April 23, 2009.

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A New World of Sound: PRISM Saxophone Quartet and Music From China

In this first-of-its-kind collaboration, a saxophone quartet joins with traditional Chinese instruments such as erhu (fiddle), yangqin (hammered dulcimer), and pipa (lute) to perform new works written for them by Grammy Award-winners Zhou Long and Chen Yi, among others.. The New York Times praised the PRISM Quartet for its “sensitivity, technical assurance, and mellow sweet sound,” while the Kansas City Star raved that “Music From China is music from heaven.” This performance was recorded in concert in the Freer’s Meyer Auditorium on March 1, 2009.

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