Tag Archives: New York

Month in Pictures: March and April

With New York musician, Ljova in town for our long-awaited, two-week collaboration, several more concerts as part of our émigré series and lots of education work, particularly with young primary school students, the Spring months at City of London Sinfonia have certainly been jam-packed. 

A unique mix of Klezmer, classical music, Balkan Gypsy and jazz, we’ve loved getting to know New York composer and musician, Ljova’s music over the last two weeks. Travelling over 3500 miles to join us for a two-week period, Ljova has performed alongside our musicians in several projects and concerts, including our recent CLoSer at Village Underground, Key Stage One projects with young children in Harrow and Tower Hamlets and participated in our L’Chaim outreach work with Jewish Care Homes. Just this week, he joined us in a DASH Arts café at Rich Mix, Shoreditch, and we look forward to welcoming him at Cadogan Hall this Saturday for our next Crash Bang Wallop family concert, Bon Voyage! Continue reading Month in Pictures: March and April

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Composer Journeys – From Hollywood to New York

Emigration has been a constant theme for musicians throughout history, with composers moving between countries and continents for a wide range of reasons. In our current concert series, we explore the journeys émigré composers have made through their musical output, whose sounds and atmospheres often reflect and have become associated with their life travels. As part of our blog series, Composer Journeys, and in the weeks and months around our exciting ÉMIGRÉ concert series, we’ve been mapping out the journeys the émigré composers have made. For our third concert of the series, From Hollywood to New York on Saturday 2 May 2015, we explore the work of the many European composers who sought fame, fortune, or refuge in the USA at the end of the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Continue reading Composer Journeys – From Hollywood to New York

Ljova: things you should know

Who is Ljova and what is his sound? Before our upcoming concert with the Russian-born, New York composer, Ljova, we’ve put together a short infographic on the things you should know about this fantastic musician. Just scroll down to find out more about his music, life and career, and listen to a few of the pieces he’ll be performing alongside the orchestra on 29 April!

Ljova infographic

#LjovaTakeover

We’re excited that Ljova will be taking over our Twitter handle @CityLdnSinfonia next week! Play the interviewer by connecting with us on Twitter and find out more about his life, background and unique sound that blends classical music with Klezmer, Balkan Gypsy and jazz!

 

CLOSER: Émigré – Ljova 
Wednesday 29 April 2015, 7:30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.

The challenges and gains of presenting an established New York-based musician to an entirely new city

Combining classical music with his own unique blend of Balkan Gypsy, Russian folk, jazz and Klezmer, New York composer and musician Ljova joins the orchestra on 29 April to perform as part of our informal concert series, CLoSer.  Hailed by the New York Times as ‘dizzingly versatile… an eclectic with an ear for texture’, Ljova’s glittering reputation across the Atlantic has not yet reached London’s cultural scene, although there is no doubt that his unique sound will resonate with the hearts and ears of any music-lover. But how do you convince an audience to experience his music, when it is so hard to describe in words what it actually sounds like?! In our latest blog, our Chief Executive, Matthew Swann, explained a few of the challenges and gains of presenting this fantastic composer and musician to an entirely new city. 

 

There is always a risk when presenting any artist who’s (relatively) new to audiences, but particularly so in London – the main risk being that people won’t buy tickets!

Londoners are spoilt for cultural choice. We pride ourselves on our willingness to take risks on new artists, but the simple fact is that there is so much new music around us all the time that getting one particular artist or performance to stand out is very difficult. Why should I go see your amazing musician, when 20 other promoters are telling me about their amazing musician on the same night? Never mind that concurrent offerings in theatre, art, comedy, film, food, bars, dance, sewing classes, going home and watching telly with a bottle of wine and goodness knows what else are all competing for your attention.

Continue reading The challenges and gains of presenting an established New York-based musician to an entirely new city

Composer Journeys – Ljova

Emigration has been a constant theme for musicians throughout history, with composers moving between countries and continents for a wide range of reasons. In our current concert series, we explore the journeys émigré composers have made through their musical output, whose sounds and atmospheres often reflect and have become associated with their life travels. As part of our blog series, Composer Journeys, and in the weeks and months around our exciting ÉMIGRÉ concert series, we’ve been mapping out the journeys the émigré composers have made.

For our second concert of the series, CLoSer: Ljova on 29 April 2015, we focus on the life and music of New York composer and musician, Ljova (Lev Zhurbin)A modern-day tale of immigration from Russia to the USA, Ljova’s musicians parents moved from Moscow to New York as communism fell in 1990. Ljova’s unique musical voice that combines classical music with Russian folk, jazz, Balkan Gypsy and Klezmer is very much indicative of his combined Russian and New York background.

Composer Journeys: Ljova. Ljova moved from Moscow to New York when he was young. His music is influenced from genres from all around the world.

 

To experience his sound, you can listen to our online playlist or just click one of his tracks below!

CLOSER: Émigré – Ljova 
Wednesday 29 April 2015, 7:30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.

 

Piazzolla: The Man and His Music – The Journey towards Tango Nuevo

Last week, we began looking at Astor Piazzolla’s life and history in relation to his émigré background in America. In this Part Two of the series, we track his climb to fame after moving back to Argentina back in 1939 and the creation of his beloved and ever-popular Tango Nuevo

The move to Argentina

In 1937, Astor Piazzolla and his family return to Mar de Plata where tango is very much prominent on the cultural scene. Although Piazzolla finds it difficult to let go of the American jazz that dominated his life over in America, he immerses himself in Argentinean tango and forms a quartet for a while before moving to Buenos Aires to try and get a position in one of the orchestras over there.

Piazzolla lands his dream job

When in Buenos Aires, Piazzolla lands a job as part of the Anibal Troilo orchestra as their bandoneón player, later becoming their arranger. The band was extremely popular in Argentina and his position was a very prestigious one! For Piazzolla, his time as part of the Troilo orchestra was an important one:

‘I learned the tricks of the tangeros, those intuitive tricks that helped me later on. I couldn’t define them technically; they are forms of playing, forms of feeling; it’s something that comes from the inside, spontaneously.’ 

Piazzolla with the Troila Orchestra c.1945 http://www.piazzolla.org/biography/biography-english.html

During this time and shortly after, Piazzolla decides to dedicate his time to composition, studying Bartok, Stravinsky and jazz. During the next few years his music has an odd, yet fantastic fusion of tango and classical.

 

Nadia Boulanger and the return to Classical Music

Constantly adding fugues, counterpoints and eccentric harmonies into his compositions, 5 years later Piazzolla realised that his music was on a different key and decided to focus on Classical music. Following this idea and after winning a scholarship, he moved to Paris to study music with French composer Nadia Boulanger. When Astor begins to learn with Nadia, he is really embarrassed about his non-classical tango past so he initially hides it from her!

Boulanger and Piazzolla c.1955 http://www.piazzolla.org/biography/biography-english.html

The Birth of Nuevo Tango

In 1955, Astor Piazzola returned to Argentina with his family. That year, he formed his orchestra Octeto Buenos Aires. Although the new band did not last for too long, it was very important for the development of Tango Nuevo, challenging the idea of the traditional tango quintet with two bandoneons, two violins, a bass, a cello, a piano and an electric guitar.  This unusual combination of instruments marked the beginning of Tango Nuevo. Fusing together the worlds of classical music, jazz and tango,

Octeto Buenos Aires
Octeto Buenos Aires http://www.verytangostore.com/legends/astor-piazzolla.html

 

Piazzolla’s revolution towards traditional tango sparked some very fierce criticism from many, but he continued to develop the genre with new rhythms, sound efffects, string counterpoint, excellent soloists and an  improvisational electric guitar nonetheless.

 An international star

1958 sees Piazzolla move to America, where his experimentation with Tango Nuevo continues in the form of infusing jazz. Eventually gaining world-wide acclaim across Europe, Japan and America, this new style of tango made Piazzolla a real superstar! This was just the beginning of a very successful, prolific and innovative music career.

Piazzolla c.1995 http://www.piazzolla.org/biography/pics/astorbando.html

In 1960, Piazzolla returned to Buenos Aires where his career continued to thrive for several years. He played in magnificent venues, orchestras, and recorded a range of discs. Continuing to compose for the next 10 years and now at the pinnacle of his career, he moves frequently between New York and Buenos Aires , performing in prestigious places such as New York’s Carnegie Hall. In 1985 is named an exceptional citizen of Buenos Aires and sadly dies in 1990, leaving behind more than 1000 works.

 

Join us on Wednesday 25 February as we perform a range of tango music from Piazzolla, Golijov and Bartok with live dancers and a FREE tango taster from 6.45pm. 

CLOSER: To and From Buenos Aires 
Wednesday 25 February 2015, 7:30pm
FREE tango taster from 6:45pm 
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.

Piazzolla: The Man and His Music – An American Life

Astor Piazzolla (1921 – 1992) is best known as the father of Tango Nuevo – a revolutionary new genre of tango which infuses elements of jazz and classical music. A talented and innovative musician as well as a composer, he became one of the foremost contributors to tango, spreading its sultry, melancholic rhythms and dance across the world.  In this blog series, we track his life and history in relation to his émigré background in America as a boy and then in Argentina later in his career in advance of performing his music at our CLoSer concert on 25 February

Italy – Argentina – New York… 

Born in 1921 in Mar del Plata near Buenos Aires, Argentina, Piazzolla’s family were émigrés of Italian background (all four grandparents were Italian immigrants who moved to Argentina). When he was 4, his family moved to New York’s Little Italy where he stayed for most of his youth, returning back to Argentina only briefly when the Great Depression hit the world in the 1930s. During these years, Astor Piazzolla learned English, Spanish, Italian and French.

Vicente Piazzolla and Asunta Mainetti
The Piazzollas. Taken from http://www.verytangostore.com/legends/astor-piazzolla.html

Living very close to Jewish community in New York and immersing himself as part of the Italian immigrant culture, Piazzolla used to earn some money extinguishing candles in a local synagogue. Later in life, he explained that the Jewish music had a profound influence on him:

“My rhythmic accents, 3-3-2, are similar to those of the Jewish popular music I heard at weddings.” – Astor Piazzolla

Piazzolla learns the bandoneón

In 1929 his father bought 8-year-old Piazzolla a bandoneón (an Argentine version of the concertina). While he wasn’t too pleased with the gift to begin with, he clumsily tried to learn the instrument to please his Dad:

“My first bandoneon was a gift from my father… he brought it covered in a box, and I got very happy because I thought it was the roller skates I had asked for so many times… Dad sat down, set it on my legs, and told me, ‘Astor, this is the instrument of tango. I want you to learn it.’ My first reaction was anger. Tango was that music he listened to almost every night after coming home from work. I didn’t like it.” – Astor Piazzolla

Piazzolla as a boy. Taken from http://www.todotango.com/english/history/chronicle/112/The-friedship-between-Gardel-and-Piazzolla/

After some success playing the bandoneón on stage, Piazzolla took classes with musician Andres D’Aquila and when he was only 11, he wrote his first Tango song, La Catinga.

A love of classical music and jazz

Despite knowing tango through his father, the music he listened to most of all was the jazz music of figures like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway that was in vogue at the time in New York. Alongside his interest in jazz, he also got to know a great deal of classical music through his pianist and neighbour, Bela Wilda (a disciple of Rachmaninoff). As he was so immersed in the Italian immigrant cultures of Little Italy, the Argentinean tradition of tango was not important to him.

“In my head I had Bach and Schumann and Mozart and very little tango.” – Astor Piazzolla 

A new friendship

When he was 12, by a freak coincidence (and hilarious anecdote), Piazzolla met Carlos Gardel, a legendary Tango singer and musician, who used him as a bandoneón player in private gigs and as a translator (Gardel didn’t know much English).

Carlos Gardel

Gardel also offered Piazzolla the part of a newspaper boy in his movie El Dia Que me Quieras. His friendship with Gardel was monumental for the young Piazzolla, as it was partly Gardel who encouraged him to venture more into this Argentinean genre of music.

The young Piazzolla in Carlos Gardel’s El Dia Que Me Quireas

Look out for Part Two of this blog where we look at Piazzolla’s development when he returns to Argentina in 1937.

Join us on Wednesday 25 February as we perform a range of tango music from Piazzolla, Golijov and Bartok with live dancers and a FREE tango taster from 6.45pm. 

CLOSER: To and From Buenos Aires 
Wednesday 25 February 2015, 7:30pm
FREE tango taster from 6:45pm 
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.

Composer Journeys – To and From Buenos Aires

Emigration has been a constant theme for musicians throughout history, with composers moving between countries and continents for a wide variety of reasons. In our upcoming concert series, EMIGRE, we explore the journeys these composers have made through their musical output, whose atmospheres and sounds often reflect and have become associated with their life travels.

For our first concert, To and From Buenos Aires on 25 February 2015, we focus on Argentinean tango. Since this art form’s conception in the bars and slums of Buenos Aires, the city has attracted composers from near and far for its particular cultural scene, as well as inspiring resident composers to share the wonder of the city with the rest of the globe. In this concert we explore three composers’ (familial) journeys to and from Buenos Aires and their individual takes on Tango’s sultry, melancholic rhythms and dance.

As part of our blog series, Composer Journeys, we’ve mapped out the journeys the émigré composers featured in this concert have made, including Piazzolla who left Buenos Aires in the 1950s to take tango music to New York and Paris, along with Golijov, whose family first escaped anti-semitic persecution in Romania to find a new life in Buenos Aires, before he moved to Israel and America later in life.

 

CLOSER: To and From Buenos Aires 
Wednesday 25 February 2015, 7:30pm
FREE tango taster from 6:45pm 
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.

Head to Head: Gershwin vs. Bernstein

With Jazz Kings, the grand finale of our Hot Tunes/Cold War series, drawing nigh, we thought it was time to bring out the big guns. Duck and cover ladies and gentlemen, and prepare yourselves for a showdown between two titans of orchestral jazz: George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. Although their careers barely overlapped, they were seemingly united by a penchant for staring moodily into the camera. Keep reading to find out which one almost forgot to write their most famous work, and who earned the respect of New York’s notoriously hard-to-please construction workers. 

Gershwin moodyName: George Gershwin (born Jacob Gershvin)

Age: Born 1898 and died 1937, aged 38.

Nationality: American

Background: Born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Gershwin studied piano under Charles Hambitzer. Hambitzer was so impressed by his new pupil that he refused to take payment, saying, “He will make his mark if anybody will. The boy is a genius.”  Gershwin dropped out of school and began playing piano professionally at age 15 and swiftly became one of the most sought-after musicians in America, writing Broadway theatre works with his brother, Ira. Unfortunately, Gershwin was diagnosed as having a malignant brain tumour in 1937, and died whilst undergoing surgery to remove it.

Big break: In 1919 Gershwin hit the big time with his song, “Swanee”. Al Jolson, a famous Broadway singer, heard Gershwin perform “Swanee” at a party and decided to sing it in one of his shows, catapulting George into stardom.Gershwin blog

Repertoire: Gershwin’s best-loved piece, Rhapsody in Blue, was composed when he was working for bandleader Paul Whiteman, who asked him to create a jazz number that would enhance the genre’s reputation. Gershwin allegedly forgot all about the request, and completed the work in a panic in order to meet the deadline. Some of his other well-known works include An American in Paris and Porgy and Bess.

Hot Tunes Cold War Performances: The original arrangement for Paul Whiteman’s band of Gershwin’s masterpiece, Rhapsody in Blue, will be performed in our Jazz Kings concert on October 31st, featuring Gwilym Simcock on piano.

Bernstein blogName: Leonard Bernstein (born Louis Bernstein)

Age: Born 1918 and died 1990, aged 72.

Nationality: American

Background: Born in Massachusetts, the son of Ukrainian Jewish parents. Bernstein attended Harvard, where he studied music, and then enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. His career as a composer and a conductor truly flourished following the Second World War, during which he produced some of his best-loved work:  was his collaboration with Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim to create West Side Story. He is also known for his outspoken leftist political views and his strong desire to further social change. He announced his retirement from conducting on October 9, 1990 and died of a heart attack five days later. During his funeral procession through the streets of Manhattan, construction workers removed their hats and yelled, “Goodbye, Lenny.” He was buried with a copy of Mahler’s Fifth lying across his heart.

Big Break: On November 14, 1943, having recently been appointed assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernstein made his major conducting debut at sudden notice—and without any rehearsal—after Bruno Walter, the principal conductor, came down with the flu. He became instantly famous because the concert was nationally broadcast, and afterwards started to appear as a guest conductor with many U.S. orchestras.Bernstein1

Repertoire: Along with West Side Story, Bernstein composed three operas, seven other musicals and innumerable pieces of orchestral, chamber and vocal music, including a song, Big Stuff, for Billie Holiday.

Hot Tunes/Cold War Performances: Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs will also be performed in our Jazz Kings concert on the 31st October.

Jazz Kings takes place on Thursday 31st October, at 19.30 in Cadogan Hall. Tickets for this climactic end to our Hot Tunes/Cold War series can be purchased here.