Review-The Knights

04.03.09
The Knights
Rondo Magazine

They call themselves ‘Knights,' yet, when necessary, they fight with modern arms: off to conquer the world of classical music with Jimi Hendrix' "Machine Gun" in their luggage Jörg Königsdorf met them in New Yor

Ten in the morning, not a good time of day for real knights. Red eyed, that's how Colin and Eric Jacobsen and their friend Johnny Gandelsman cling to their steaming caffe latte in a small café in Manhattans' East End. And were it not for the instrument cases next to the grimy chairs, one might well mistake them for left-over party goers, who've just been thrown out of the last open Bleeker Street club. At this hour, regular orchestral musicians are already at first rehearsals, and if one looks at these three tired warriors it is no surprise that they have decided against that type of musicianship. The three are the hard core of the Knights: as master graduates of the Julliard School and Curtis Institute they founded a string quartet with a name not immediately suggestive of devotion to Mozart veneration, ‘Brooklyn Riders.' And even at their concerts this knightly chamber ensemble does front-row battle. Gandelsman with cowboy boots and frock-coat and the younger Jacobsen brother Colin as first desks of the two violin sections, Eric, a one-time Cellist, now as conductor of the group. They became a chamber orchestra by stages, Eric Jacobsen explains, "initially there were ever more strings and then, from among our friends, the winds. And, in truth, we still don't really feel like a genuine orchestra, more like a big band."

Sounds laid back, but the real concern of the Brooklyn Bohemians is a serious one. Once they grasped that they had reached a strength to even tackle the standard symphonic repertoire, they wondered what a real contemporary orchestra might be. A well-honed and seasoned body such as the Met Orchestra, where their father had been a violinist for thirty years? Or an assembly of more or less frustrated civil servants as in Germany? The Knights found another solution: an orchestra for them is simply the smallest common denominator, simply the point where musicians meet, who otherwise pursue totally different objectives - specialists for New Music and baroque, for classical chamber music and composers and even a song writer are all involved with the Knights to simply meet and - perhaps - play Beethoven. So far, they've done this publicly only three times a year, playing in clubs, schools and small concert halls in and around New York. But that should soon change: two CDs this year have made the Knights internationally respectable and in May they will hop over to Europe, to appear at the prestigious opening concert of the Dresden Music Festival. "The Knights bring together all that is important today: they are stylistically enormously versatile, yet trained to perfection," raves Dresden Festival chief Jan Vogler, "they can do it all, from Vivaldi to Elliott Carter." He had known immediately that the Knights are just the ticket for his new CD project, in which he will link the music of Shostakovich with a Cello arrangement of the Jimmy Hendrix electric guitar piece ‘Machine Gun.' The now recorded album, produced live at Hendrix' legendary old favourite Poisson Rouge, confirms this: real Knights can do it all - except get up early.