Kaori Yamagami, White Light Fest NYC
Originally written for Sol Gabetta and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Michel van der Aa’s Up-Close is being taken up by a growing number of soloists and ensembles since winning the Grawemeyer Prize for Composition a year ago.
Several of these performances have been in the United States, where it is making quite an impact. In October the piece received its US premiere at the Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, where it was performed by Kaori Yamagami and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Last month it was also performed at Walt Disney Concert Hall, by Johannes Moser and the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s New Music Group. The concerts were previewed in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and both earned strong press reviews.
Writing for the New York Times, Vivien Schweitzer praised the “chilling … film-noir cello concerto” for its “remarkable intertwining of sound and image”. In the Wall Street Journal Heidi Waleson wrote that “The final, slow moments of the piece, with the echoing solo cello and the woods darkening around the filmed woman, who clutches a flickering lamp, made for a haunting, ambiguous culmination.” And finally, Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times described Up-Close as “a trek out of the chamber and into a new corner of virtual reality.”
The Los Angeles performance also saw Moser become the work’s first male soloist. Swed noted the effect this had on the interpretation of the piece: “No longer alter ego, the woman in the film became more like a poignant maternal memory, and that proved a highly effective new touch.”
The US performances continue this month, when Up-Close will be played at the Merrill Wright Mainstage Theater in Seattle by Julie Albers and the Seattle Chamber Players, conducted by Alastair Williams. Further performances this year include the Finnish premiere in Helsinki, by the Avanti! chamber orchestra and Kaori Yamagami (4 May), and by the Czech Philharmonic under Kent Nagano at the Vorsprung-Festival, Ingolstadt, Germany (16 July). That will bring the total countries in which the work has been performed up to twelve.
Johannes Moser & LA Philharmonic Orchestra
Kaori Yamagami & Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, NYC
Konstanze van Gutzeit & Berg Orchestra, Prague