We see Lady Macbeth in a dozen crooning silhouettes washing blood out of rags over bright porcelain sinks; hear Stravinsky pouring out of an abandoned warehouse; hear an overture imploring against hatred; watch a violinist cutting himself out of duct tape with a razor as his amplified violin sits gathering feedback; and witness as a long lost John Adams suite comes alive at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Conductor and composer Christopher Rountree is standing at the intersection of classical music, new music, performance art and pop.
Rountree, 34, is the founder, conductor and creative director of the pathbreaking L.A. chamber orchestra wild Up. The group has been called “Searing. Penetrating. And Thrilling” by NPR’s Performance Today, called “…a raucous, grungy, irresistibly exuberant…fun-loving, exceptionally virtuosic family” by Zachary Woolfe, and named “Best Classical Music of 2015” by the New York Times.
Whether he’s conducting, composing or curating a program, Rountree’s approach – with its “infectious enthusiasm” (L.A. Times), “incisive direction” (New Yorker), and “elegant clarity” (New York Times) – is united by extremely high energy and a deeply engaged relationship between a score, musicians and audience.
If there is a dam separating establishment classical music from more adventurous forms, Rountree finds himself spilling over both sides – conducting Opera Omaha here, and writing experimental narrative work about frozen yogurt for Jennifer Koh there.
In the coming year, Rountree has debuts with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, and at Washington National Opera conducting the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s new opera: Proving Up. He conducts the LA Phil in the world premiere of Annie Gosfield’s new opera, directed by Yuval Sharon: War of the Worlds. He returns to San Francisco Conservatory in a program celebrating the activist work of Pauline Oliveros and Louis Andriessen, and returns to Omaha working with ICE for the first iteration of Opera Omaha’s ONE Festival. He embarks on wild Up’s first U.S. tour, works with Bjork for her massive festival show at FYF in LA, premieres a wild Up / LA Phil co-commission from legendary avant-pop musician Scott Walker at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
In the past few years, Rountree made his Chicago Symphony, LA Opera, San Diego Opera and Atlanta Opera debuts, conducted and curated numerous times at San Francisco Symphony’s SoundBox, returned to the LA Phil’s Green Umbrella series where he’s premiered dozens of works at Walt Disney Concert Hall and helped create a twelve hour festival celebrating John Adams and new music in LA. He helped resurrect works of Graham, Barber, and Chavez with the Martha Graham Dance Company, conducted the Interlochen World Youth Orchestra on the New York Philharmonic’s 2016 Biennial including the world premiere of Bound to the Bow, the piece that got Ashley Fure her Pulitzer Finalist nod. He premiered David Lang’s new opera Anatomy Theater and recorded the work with ICE in New York, he joined Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner with wild Up at the Laguna Beach Music Festival, debuted at Opera Omaha performing John Adams’ “A Flowering Tree” and returned to Omaha in Jonathan Dove’s Flight both directed by James Darrah, he conducted the world premiere of Julia Holter’s opera at National Sawdust, and conducted the score to Evil Dead, live with Bruce Campbell at the ACE Hotel in LA.
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