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Studio Recording and Performances of Golijov’s Azul and Other Works with Yo-Yo Ma

The Knights will record music recently composed or arranged by Golijov, Shaw, Stevens, Sollima, and Jacobsen/Aghaei.


The Knights, joined by Yo-Yo Ma, will create the first studio recording of five recent works and arrangements from wildly diverse corners of the music world. The album features Osvaldo Golijov’s breathtaking Azul (with Ma as soloist); Pulitzer Prize-winning composer (and Knights guest violinist) Caroline Shaw’s septet arrangement of Stockhausen’s Tierkreis: Leo; a Suite from Sufjan Steven’s Run Rabbit Run as expanded and arranged by Stevens’ close collaborator and Knights hornist Michael P. Atkinson; a transcription of Dvorak’s Song to the Moon for cello and orchestra; and Ascending Bird, the product of Artistic Director Colin Jacobsen’s collaboration with Iranian santur virtuoso Siamak Aghaei.

This album marks The Knights’ second recording of Golijov’s music and third collaboration with Grammy-winning producer Jesse Lewis. It will be recorded September 26, 28, and October 18, 2015, at BRIC in Brooklyn, where The Knights are artists-in-residence, and represents the venue’s maiden voyage as a recording studio for classical music. The Knights are in conversation with three labels about licensing and distribution, with the goal of releasing the album in the next 20 months.

The Knights will perform selections from the album in concert at Caramoor (September 27), Penn State (October 1), Dumbarton Oaks (October 4 and 5), Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center (October 16), and BRIC (October 17).

The focal point of the album is Azul, written for Ma in 2006. Unlike traditional cello concerti, the soloist is not a heroic figure but an explorer of otherworldly soundscapes and a catalyst for chaos and revelation. The cello shares the spotlight with an obbligato trio consisting of hyper-accordion and two solo percussionists manning 42 instruments, from the Waterphone to the djembe. At 51 musicians (including conductor/Artistic Director Eric Jacobsen and Azul obbligato veterans Michael Ward-Bergeman, Cyro Baptista, and Jamey Haddad), the piece features the largest Knights ensemble on record to date.

With Azul as a starting point, The Knights’ Artistic Directors and Programming Committee curated a concept album. In each piece, there is a sense of looking toward the heavens and defying gravity. Azul evokes the vastness of the cosmos and invites the listener to view the world from above, while Song to the Moon casts the moon as a messenger, reuniting long-distance lovers as it travels across the sky. Both Run Rabbit Run and Leo set astrological signs to music, with intriguingly contrasting results. Finally, Ascending Bird (with Ma playing a brief introductory solo in dialogue with two members of The Knights) retells the Persian myth of a bird transcending its physical body while attempting to fly to the sun.

This project brings disparate worlds together. Atkinson’s extrapolations of Run Rabbit Run bring out the rhythmic interplay of Sufjan Stevens’ indie-classical work. Dvorak’s gorgeous Song to the Moon – with the solo line transcribed for Ma’s lyrical cello – represents the most traditionally classical piece on the album. Shaw’s arrangement of Leo, one of Stockhausen’s modular creations, weaves an important voice from the European avant-garde together with these other strands. Ascending Bird joins classical music from the West and the Middle East into an amalgam of musical languages.

Project Media

Stravinsky: Concerto in E-flat Major, “Dumbarton Oaks”: III. Con moto
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Features: The Knights

The last movement of Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks”Concerto, recorded live by The Knights, October 8th, 2013, Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington, DC. Released in January 2015 on the album “the ground beneath our feet”(Warner Classics). Produced and engineered by Jesse Lewis, who is also a participant in the proposed project.

Osvaldo Golijov: Azul
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Azul, for cello, obbligato group, and orchestra. Performed live by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall, Chicago, January 9, 2009. Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Michael Ward-Bergeman, hyperaccordion; and Jamey Haddad, percussion.

Ma, Ward-Bergeman, and Haddad are participants in the proposed project.

Colin Jacobsen/Siamak Aghaei – Ascending Bird (Pre-Release Mix)
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Features: The Knights, BRIC

A pre-release mix of Jacobsen/Aghaei’s Ascending Bird, recorded September 26, 2015 at BRIC in Brooklyn, New York. Performed by The Knights and Yo-Yo Ma; Eric Jacobsen, conductor. Recorded by Jesse Lewis.

Start and End Dates



Brooklyn, New York

Project Created By

Brooklyn, New York
The Knights are a collective of adventurous musicians, dedicated to transforming the orchestral experience and eliminating barriers between audiences and music. Driven by an open-minded spirit of camaraderie and exploration, they inspire listeners with vibrant programs that encompass their roots in the classical tradition and passion for artistic discovery. The orchestra has toured and recorded…

In Collaboration With

Recording/Rehearsing Venue, Residency Site
Brooklyn, New York
Performer - Azul
New Orleans, Louisiana


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