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A Luminous Line Up

By Ben Finane
25 Sep 2012

Kiran Ahluwalia

Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, which explores the connection of artistic expression to our interior lives, makes its return October 18 through November 18.


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Now entering its third year, White Light finds its landscape of performers expanding: this year’s Festival will feature some 27 performances and events that span musical traditions, genres and disciplines.

“In a time-constricted and stress-filled urban life,” notes Lincoln Center’s Ehrenkranz Artistic Director Jane Moss, “we have planned the White Light Festival as an artistic sanctuary that is a reminder of the many dimensions that make up an individual’s life. We hope both new audiences and White Light enthusiasts will discover fresh inspiration in the Festival offerings from around the world.

“The concept of the Festival,” Moss continues, “namely the capacity of artistic experience to prompt and illuminate the many transcendent dimensions that lie within us, has turned out to be an engaging creative framework for programming...[and it] enables us to offer a wide diversity of presentations within a single coherent frame.”

White Light opens on October 18 with a free concert of ghazal and Punjabi folk songs performed by Kiran Ahluwalia, whom the Washington Post calls “austerely lovely,” at the David Rubenstein Atrium. A month later, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra bring White Light to a close with Mahler’s Ninth Symphony on November 18 at Avery Fisher Hall.

A number of premieres and debuts are scheduled for White Light that both are trans- formative and transcend the everyday. First, Ireland’s Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre— “one of the most daring and highly original dance theatre companies in the world” (The Times of London)—makes its New York debut with the U.S. premiere of Rian, an exuber- ant contemporary dance work that features traditional Irish music (November 8–10 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater) by next-generation choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan. Another contemporary choreographer, Akram Khan, will see the New York premiere of his meditative and spiritual Vertical Road (October 23–24, Rose Theater), inspired by Sufi mys- tic and poet Rumi. In addition, the Baryshnikov Arts Center hosts The Spirit of the Body (November 1–3) by choreographer/dancer Malavika Sarukkai, one of the most popular classical dancers from India.

The Latvian Radio Choir also makes its U.S. debut, first performing a diverse program of works by composers that includes Lasse Thoresen and György Ligeti (November 16, Church of St. Mary the Virgin). The next night sees the Choir in collaboration with the young Latvian orchestra Sinfonietta Riga on an Arvo Pärt program that features the Berliner Messe, Te Deum, Trisagion, and Adam’s Lament (November 17, Alice Tully Hall).

Ensemble Basiani returns to Lincoln Center following its North American debut at the 2010 Mostly Mozart Festival for “Transcending Time,” a program of folk, work and sacred songs highlighting Georgian choral music (October 27, Church of St. Mary the Virgin).

Composer Heiner Goebbels and the Hilliard Ensemble will join forces in presenting I went to the house but did not enter (November 13 and 14, Rose Theater), a music-and-theater work that incorporates writings by T.S. Eliot, Maurice Blanchot, Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett in an exploration of melancholy and aging.

Percussionist Stuart Gerber and sound projectionist Joe Drew of Analog Arts present an evening of music by Karlheinz Stockhausen (October 30). The program starts and ends in the Alice Tully Hall lobby with the New York premiere of Stockhausen’s Friday Greeting, an installation designed to erase the stimuli of the outside world. The performance in the concert hall itself will feature the New York premiere of Stockhausen’s allegorical Heaven’s Door, followed by the rarely heard Cosmic Pulses, the composer’s final electronic piece.

One of the great men of music, conductor William Christie, will be on hand with his ensemble Les Arts Florissants to perform a trio of sacred motets by Charpentier: The Prodigal Son, Miseremini mei, and Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (October 19, Alice Tully Hall).

Composer and conductor Matthias Pintscher will lead the Mahler masterwork Das Lied von der Erde (November 4, Rose Theater), arranged for chamber orchestra and performed by musicians from the New York Philharmonic and featuring pianist Emmanuel Ax, mezzo- soprano Tamara Mumford and tenor Russell Thomas.

In the realm of solo instrumentalists, White Light debuts include pianist Paul Lewis per- forming Schubert’s final three sonatas (October 20, Alice Tully Hall); organist Cameron Carpenter playing an all-Bach program on the Alice Tully Hall organ (October 28); and Wang Li offering a meditative program of works on the jaw harp—one of the oldest instruments in the world—and the calabash flute (October 25, The Allen Room).

“Late-Night Elegies” are hour-long performances that take place in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse at 10:30 p.m. Irish folk rock musician Liam Ó Maonlai is joined by friends to share music from his Irish heritage (November 9). Pianist Alexei Lubimov brings a pro- gram to the Penthouse titled “The Unanswered Journey” (November 8), which includes quiet works by Chopin, Mozart, Pärt, and Ustvolskaya.

After making her Lincoln Center American Songbook debut in 2011, Mary Chapin Carpenter joins White Light with her special mix of folk, country, acoustic, rock, and blues, featuring songs from her latest album, Ashes and Roses (October 26, Alice Tully Hall). In addi- tion, mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink offers a program on the theme of loss, with songs by Dvoˇrák, Mahler and Schumann (November 14, Alice Tully Hall).

Closing out the Festival, John Schaefer, a familiar voice of New York public radio, makes an appearance at the Kaplan Penthouse to moderate two panels: “The Body and The Self” (November 17) and “The Self and Music” (November 18).

“It’s fantastic that we can do all of this in White Light,” Moss concludes. “What I find so exciting about the Festival in general is that it permits me to look at the presentation of art in the context of how it connects to our lives—not as a remote aesthetic object, but as a real way of understanding not only our worlds but our own selves.”

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Ben Finane is Editor-in-Chief of Listen: Life with Classical Music, a quarterly magazine.




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