Ensemble PiNew York, NY
Founded in 2001 by pianist Idith Meshulam, Ensemble Pi is a new music ensemble dedicated to exploring the music of living composers and undiscovered composers of the past. The Ensemble draws on a flexible group of seasoned professional performers who share a commitment to the work of living composers. Through innovative and collaborative programs, Ensemble Pibridges the gap between new music and new audiences. The Ensemble is best known for its annual Peace Concert of contemporary music, given annually in New York at the Great Hall in Cooper Union.
In 2013, the annual Peace Project Concert marked the 10th year since the beginning of the Iraq War, and included a cross-section of works concerning war and civil liberties, including Can You Hear That by Philip Miller, about South African Apartheid policies, and Abu Ghraib by John Harbison. The Ensemble was invited to work with and perform in a live concert in October of 2013 (recorded for WQXR) with renowned composer and peace advocate Krzysztof Penderecki for the Symphony Space salon.
Past Peace Project concerts have included commissions from American composers Kristin Norderval and Karim Al-Zand, as well as performances of Penderecki’s Sextet and works by Peter Ablinger, Benjamin Britten, George Crumb, and Alice Shields.
Since its founding ten years ago, Ensemble Pi has built a committed New York City audience, as evidenced by sell-out crowds for three Peace Project concerts in 2012 and 2013. In November 2012, the sixth annual Peace concert was presented to overflow crowds at the cell theatre, drawing almost 300, many standing. The theme of the concert was “What Must be Said,” and included works by Susan Botti (The Fallen City, for all the cities that have faced natural and man-made disasters), Kristen Norderval (Three Character Studies, scenes from opera about Argentinean architect and activist Patricia Isasa, a survivor of Argentina’s Dirty War, who brought her abductors to justice 30 years later) and songs by Hans Eisler, who faced blackballing and exile for his early political activities. The previous year’s Peace Project concert was Echo-System, dedicated to preserving the world’s water, which included works with whale song by George Crumb and Christopher Kaufman, and a new commission from Kristin Norderval.
In 2010, the Ensemble performed the William Kentridge/Philip Miller multi-media work Nine Projections at the Winter Garden by special invitation of the artists. For the 2010 Peace Project concert the Ensemble commissioned and premiered, “Swimmy,” a setting of Lionni’s famous children’s tale by composer Karim Al-Zand. The Ensemble was the resident Ensemble for the American Composer’s Alliance New Music Festival for five years and is currently the principal performing ensemble for the Association for the Promotion of New Music.
Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together
Frederic Rzewski’s minimalist masterpiece, Coming Together, composed in the wake of the 1971 prison riots in upstate New York. Scored for narrator and open ensemble, the work is based on a letter by Sam Melville, one of the leaders of the Attica riots in which he was killed. It makes use of melodic and harmonic repetitions to convey the frustration of life behind bars and ends with an accumulative crescendo of anger about injustice. Actor Joseph Assadourian, who spent 14 years behind bars, narrates the piece.
Eleanor Cory’s Rikers Island
This is an earlier version of the work, performed by Ensemble Pi and recorded live at “Music and Captivity” in October 2015. Scored for piano, clarinet, violin, and cello, this segment was inspired by the poem, Fireflies, read by ex-convict, Ashley Mote.
Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the end of time
This a live recording of the work performed by Ensemble Pi at “Music and Captivity.” Scored for piano, violin, cello, and clarinet, it was originally composed and performed in the prisoner-of-war camp in Gorlitz, Germany.