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Chamber Music Performed With a Twist

Fest 08: Absolute Ensemble Mahler

Date 1 November 2007

Media release

Chamber Music Performed With a Twist

"Classical chamber orchestra, rock band and big band, all in one," is what creator and conductor Kristjan Järvi calls the Absolute Ensemble.

A champion of contemporary music, Kristjan Järvi founded the electro-acoustic Absolute Ensemble in 1993 with the vision that they explore the future of classical music, not segregate it.

This has resulted in a fusion of worlds that will see a concert, sponsored by Newstalk ZB, which marries an eclectic contemporary chamber performance of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and the lyrical Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. Their inventive and daring combinations of styles have won exciting attention from audiences worldwide and the music press.

“...musicians who are equally comfortable with classical music, jazz and rock and who have the techniques to address those styles on their own terms.”
New York Times

Mahler creates a world in Symphony No 4 that is rather more pleasurable than in some of his other works. Across the span of the symphony the music moves from a pleasant rustic scene at its opening to the innocent child’s view of heaven or paradise, captured in the setting of one of the Wűnderhorn songs at the end.

The arrangement for chamber ensemble was done by Schoenberg’s pupil Erwin Stein, in 1918, for Arnold Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performance (a secret society where music of the day could be performed without criticism or judgment of any kind). Joining the Absolute Ensemble will be one of Australasia’s leading sopranos - Sara Macliver – for the sublime vocal solo.

Claude Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune) was inspired by the poem “L'Après-midi d'un faune” by Stéphane Mallarmé, and later formed the basis for a ballet choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. One of Debussy's most famous works, it represents a turning point in the history of music and is suggested by Debussy’s contemporaries as the beginning of modern music with its free harmonies and intoxicating melody.

The Absolute Ensemble was founded to integrate, not segregate, categories of contemporary music. Fusing its classical roots with everything from jazz and rock to world music and hip-hop, the bad boys of contemporary concert music, Absolute Ensemble delivers intensely musical performances that will shake an audience’s notion of what a new-music concert can be.

Guest artists with the group have included classical pianists Vladimir Feltsman and Joseph Kalichstein, and also jazz stars such as Paquito d'Rivera, Dave Taylor and Kenny Drew. The group has toured Europe, Central America and Australia, and has performed in New York at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Merkin Concert Hall and Alice Tully Hall. They have released eight albums, been nominated for a Grammy, and won the German Record Prize.

This special performance will take place on 5 March at the Town Hall at 7.30pm. Earlier in the day, at 1.15pm at the Pacific Blue Festival Club, there will be an Art Talk featuring Kristjan Järvi and members of the Absolute Ensemble who will talk about the diversity of their performance practice.

Please note the Absolute Ensemble will be performing another concert on Thursday 6 March – Absolute Arabian Nights

More about Kristjan Järvi
Named after an Olympic athlete - heavyweight wrestler Kristjan Palusalu – Estonian-born Kristjan Järvi is part of the conducting empire that comprises his older brother Paavo , Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony, sister Maarika a flautist, and patriarch Neeme Järvi, conductor of the New Jersey Symphony and music director emeritus of the Detroit Symphony. It was always emphasised to the young Kristjan that he would succeed in whatever he did, but he wasn’t always sure about joining the family business: "It's an intimidating thing when you have a very well-known father, and a brother who is following very successfully in his footsteps."

Kristjan Järvi studied at the Mozarteum at Salzburg, the Manhattan School of Music and conducting at the University of Michigan. He then began his career as assistant conductor to Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and guest-conducted with the Netherlands Philharmonic and the Radio Turin Symphony in Italy, after which he became the music director of the Norlands Opera Company and Symphony Orchestra in Umea, Sweden.

Acclaim for the Absolute Ensemble

“Compelling...persuasive...the adventuresome [Absolute Ensemble]...was a refreshing break from the stuffiness of so many was left wanting to hear more.” THE NEW YORK TIMES

“The consummate musicianship is evident across the ensemble, whether it is crafting the intricate opening phrases of the Strauss or improvising a crazy, fiendish solo…High energy is key to this concert. From the hip gyrations of Järvi to the percussionists’ high hat beats, every musician appears to be giving it everything, and having a wonderful time doing so.” SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

“[Absolute Ensemble] handles the ensemble and metrical challenges with great panache and naturalness.” BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE


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