Episodes:

Simon Shaheen performing on the Arab lute.

Enjoy an invigorating blend of music from the worlds of jazz, Latin, and Arab traditions. Joining composer, violinist, and ‘ud (Arab lute) virtuoso Simon Shaheen is a genre-crossing ensemble on ney (Arab flute), qanun (Arab zither), guitar, violin, cello, and percussion. Recorded live in concert at the Freer|Sackler on June 23, 2018.

Arab-Latin-Jazz Fusions: Simon Shaheen and Qantara

Enjoy an invigorating blend of music from the worlds of jazz, Latin, and Arab traditions. Joining composer, violinist, and ‘ud (Arab lute) virtuoso Simon Shaheen is a genre-crossing ensemble on ney (Arab flute), qanun (Arab zither), guitar, violin, cello, and percussion. Recorded live in concert at the Freer|Sackler on June 23, 2018.

Musicians from Marlboro: Penderecki and Brahms

Violinist Robin Scott, a member of the Grammy Award-winning Ying Quartet, joins four other participants in the prestigious Marlboro Music Festival to perform Krzysztof Penderecki’s String Trio and Johannes Brahms’ String Quintet, op. 88. He performs with violinist Tessa Lark, violists Rebecca Albers and Molly Carr (pictured), and cellist Marcy Rosen.

Members of the Miyabi Koto Shamisen Ensemble posing for a photo.

Hear new and traditional music for Japanese instruments performed by this ensemble of fourteen kotos with shamisen and shakuhachi. Based in New York, the Miyabi Ensemble extends the range of music for Japanese instruments through an array of innovative styles. Guest artists John Kaizan Neptune on shakuhachi, guitarist Michael Gilsinan, and percussionist Manny Arciniega join ensemble director Masayo Ishigure for this concert. Masayo Ishigure can be heard on the Golden Globe-winning soundtrack to the feature film Memoirs of a Geisha.

Miyabi Koto Shamisen Ensemble

Hear new and traditional music for Japanese instruments performed by this ensemble of fourteen kotos with shamisen and shakuhachi. Based in New York, the Miyabi Ensemble extends the range of music for Japanese instruments through an array of innovative styles. Guest artists John Kaizan Neptune on shakuhachi, guitarist Michael Gilsinan, and percussionist Manny Arciniega join ensemble director Masayo Ishigure for this concert. Masayo Ishigure can be heard on the Golden Globe-winning soundtrack to the feature film Memoirs of a Geisha.

Members of the Silkroad Ensemble performing a new composition at the Freer|Sackler.

The Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble gives the world premiere of a major new composition that Silkroad musicians, inspired by works of art on view in the galleries, wrote for the Freer|Sackler. Performing in this debut are Sandeep Das on tabla (Indian drums), Kojiro Umezaki on shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Shaw Pong Liu on violin and erhu (Chinese fiddle), Wu Tong on vocals and sheng (Chinese mouth organ), Jeffrey Beecher on bass, and Shane Shanahan on percussion.

Silkroad Ensemble: Musical Postcards from the Freer|Sackler

The Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble gives the world premiere of a major new composition that Silkroad musicians, inspired by works of art on view in the galleries, wrote for the Freer|Sackler. Performing in this debut are Sandeep Das on tabla (Indian drums), Kojiro Umezaki on shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Shaw Pong Liu on violin and erhu (Chinese fiddle), Wu Tong on vocals and sheng (Chinese mouth organ), Jeffrey Beecher on bass, and Shane Shanahan on percussion.

musicians

Buddhist Music from Zhihua Temple

Hear Buddhist music from seventeenth-century China as the Zhihua Buddhist Temple Ensemble performs on traditional ritual instruments. This six-person group features two members of the twenty-seventh generation of Zhihua musicians, a long-time artist with the Shanghai Peking Opera House Orchestra, and a former member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble.

two musicians on a stage

Baila Music from Sri Lanka: The Gypsies

Get ready to move to the infectious rhythms of baila, a unique form of dance music from Sri Lanka that originated among Portuguese fishermen and African slaves in the colonial period. Modern baila is now popular in Sri Lankan communities around the world, played at parties, weddings, and dance clubs. This concert was recorded on the Freer Gallery’s plaza, facing the National Mall, in conjunction with the exhibition Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Nowruz Performance

Persian Music: Classical and New (Part Two)

Sahba Motallebi performs classical and original music for Iranian lutes as part of the Freer|Sackler’s Persian New Year celebration. She is one of the few women worldwide who plays these instruments in major concert halls. Motallebi specializes in Persian classical music, a tradition of virtuoso improvisation based on melodic modes chosen to reflect the mood of the musician and the occasion.

Nowruz Performance

Persian Music: Classical and New (Part One)

Sahba Motallebi performs classical and original music for Iranian lutes as part of the Freer|Sackler’s Persian New Year celebration. She is one of the few women worldwide who plays these instruments in major concert halls. Motallebi specializes in Persian classical music, a tradition of virtuoso improvisation based on melodic modes chosen to reflect the mood of the musician and the occasion.

performers

The Lightbulb Ensemble performing Hamsa: Five Tales on traditional Balinese gamelan with organ, guitar, and voice in 2016. Their performance at the Hammer Auditorium was part of Performing Indonesia: Islamic Intersections, a joint presentation of the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler, George Washington University, and the Embassy of Indonesia.

The Lightbulb Ensemble: Tales of Hamsa

In this virtuoso performance, a traditional Balinese gamelan orchestra combines with organ, guitar, and voice to tell the allegorical story of a beggar’s perplexing dreams about the Five Pillars of Islam. With entrancing music by Brian Baumbusch and libretto by Paul Baumbusch, this compelling music puts the shimmering sounds of gamelan in an entirely new context. Presented in 2016 as part of the festival Performing Indonesia: Islamic Intersections.

Bell Yung performing

Painting with Music: Bell Yung, qin

Bell Yung performs on the qin at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in conjunction with the exhibition Painting with Words: Gentleman Artists of the Ming Dynasty. He is emeritus professor of music at the University of Pittsburgh. He specializes in the history and theory of music of the qin as well as Chinese ritual music and Cantonese opera and narrative songs. The qin he plays, named Pines in Ten Thousand Gullies, dates to the late Ming dynasty.

two musicians on stage playing instruments

The Art of Afghan Music

Homayun Sakhi, rubāb; Salar Nader, tabla

Enjoy Afghan folk and classical music performed by Homayun Sakhi, a leading exponent of the eighteen-stringed rubāb (lute). He performs folk songs from Kabul, dance tunes from the Panjsher Valley, and Indian ragas that Afghans have prized since the Mughal era. Homayun Sakhi has performed at Carnegie Hall with Salar Nader and is featured on two Smithsonian Folkways recordings. His appearances at the Freer|Sackler were presented in 2016 in collaboration with the Aga Khan Music Initiative and in conjunction with the exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan.

Detail, Waves at Matsushima 松島図屏風

Detail, Waves at Matsushima 松島図屏風; F1906.231-232

Making Musical Waves: The Legacy of Yatsuhashi

This concert was presented in 2015 in conjunction with the exhibition Sōtatsu: Making Waves, which was on view at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery from October 24, 2015, through January 31, 2016.

Seijo Tominari, koto, shamisen, and voice
Seiritsu Tomio, koto and voice
Yodo Kurahashi, shakuhachi
Ayako Kurahashi, koto and voice
Miyuki Yoshikami, koto and voice

Cantate Chamber Singers, Gisele Becker, director

The Tarek Yamani Trio performed at the Freer Gallery on December 6, 2014. Left to right are Tarek Yamani (piano), Petros Klampanis (bass), and Evan Sherman (drums). The trio performed jazz standards along with Tarek’s original jazz arrangements of classic Arab songs from the 1950s.

A Jazz Take on Classic Arab Song: Tarek Yamani Trio

Take a jazz journey to the Arab world of the 1950s with Lebanese pianist Tarek Yamani and his original arrangements of music from the classic era of Arab songs. The Beirut-born Yamani is joined by bassist Petros Klampanis and drummer Evan Sherman. Yamani breathes invigorating new life into songs made wildly popular by such singers as Uum Kulthum and composers Sayyid Darwīsh and Mohammad al-Maslūb and their orchestras. Winner of the Thelonius Monk Competition in 2010, Yamani created the annual music initiative Beirut Speaks Jazz in 2013 and has performed at the United Nations and in clubs across New York City.

This concert was originally performed at the Meyer Auditorium on December 6, 2014.

French pianist David Kadouch performed at the Freer Gallery of Art in December 2014.

The Traveler’s Ear: Scenes from Music

Take an enchanting, musical journey through the great outdoors. Award-winning French pianist David Kadouch performs travel-inspired works by Bach, Schumann, Liszt, and Bartók. Kadouch made his New York debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art after winning top prizes at the Beethoven Bonn Competition and Leeds International Piano Competition. This concert was presented in conjunction with The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes from Asia.

Dariush Saghafi performs on the Persian santur at the Freer Gallery in 2014. He taught santur at the Tabriz Institute of Fine Arts in Iran before moving to the United States. Saghafi has appeared at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall in New York and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In 2008 he premiered Reza Vali’s Caligraphy no. 4 with the Quarteto Latinoamericano.

Masters of the Persian Santur: Dariush Saghafi and Kazem Davoudian

Two virtuosos of the Iranian hammered dulcimer explore the subtle nuances and dramatic flair of Persian classical music on this ancient instrument. Their improvisations, performed at the Freer Gallery of Art in 2014, are based on the Persian dastgāhs, melodic modes that are comparable in richness and history to the ragas of India.

The Legacy of Western Music in Meiji Japan – Kamio

The brilliant Japanese violinist Mayuko Kamio, a gold medalist at the International Tchaikovsky Competition, performs Johannes Brahms’ Scherzo from his F-A-E Sonata; Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane; Toshio Hosokawa’s Vertical Time Study III; Shinichiro Ikebe’s Themes from the Japanese film Catharsis, and an encore of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee. This concert was recorded in 2014 in conjunction with Kiyochika: Master of the Night.

The Legacy of Western Music in Meiji Japan – Vonsattel

Enjoy the Romantic music that so entranced Japan in the late nineteenth century with this recital by the acclaimed Swiss-born pianist Gilles Vonsattel, whose 2011 CD was named a classical album of the year by Time Out New York. Beethoven’s beloved “Moonlight” Sonata and Bagatelles are played alongside works by Liszt and Schumann. The podcast concludes with Debussy’s atmospheric Images, Books I and II, compositions that were directly inspired by Japanese prints. This concert took place in conjunction with the 2014 exhibition, Kyochika: Master of the Night.

Van Raat seated at piano

Music of Toru Takemitsu and Tan Dun: Ralph Van Raat, piano

In this compelling recital, Dutch pianist Ralph van Raat performs rarely heard music by the late Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu and Chinese-born composer Tan Dun. Takemitsu, well known for his film scores, made his fame as a master of the orchestral colors that he ingeniously employs in his piano works. Tan Dun’s early fame came from his innovative use of percussion, which he integrated into his music for piano. Van Raat made his East Coast debut with this Freer Gallery recital in 2014, shortly after he performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in his first North American appearance.

The full ensemble heard on this podcast includes (left to right) Basel Rajoub, tenor saxophone; Kenan Adnawi, ‘ud; Naghib Shanbehzadeh, percussion; and Saeid Shanbehzadeh, Persian bagpipe. (Photo by Scott Friedlander © 2014, used with permission.)

Sound: The Encounter: New Music from Iran and Syria

Four jazz-oriented artists from the Middle East merge the musical traditions for Persian and Arab bagpipe, double clarinet, lute, and drums along with the Western saxophone. Together they forge new sounds that transport ancient melodies into modern idioms. This performance was recorded live in concert at the Freer Gallery on December 12, 2013, and was presented in cooperation with the Aga Khan Music Initiative.

Opening the concert was the trompong kebyar dance. I Nyoman Maria created its music and choreography in 1925. The name reflects the fact that the dancer (here, I Putu Dedik Sutyana) also plays the trompong, a row of gong-chimes.

Shimmering Sounds from Bali: The Gamelan Ensemble of the Indonesian Institute of the Arts

Thrill to the high-voltage music of the Balinese gamelan in this electrifying performance by the professional ensemble of the Indonesian Institute of the Arts. This all-star orchestra conveys the virtuosic tempos and dramatic shifts for which the Balinese gamelan is so justly famous. This music was recorded in 2013 as part of Performing Indonesia: A Conference and Festival of Music, Dance, and Drama.

Music for the dance Lawung Jajar, created by Sultan Hamengku Buwana I (reigned 1755−92), concludes the podcast. This dance is based on military traditions at the court, specifically the lance maneuvers (lawung). The dancers for the performance were Yata, Pramutomo, Icuk Ismunandar, Widaru Krefianto Darmawan, and Anon Suneko.

Javanese Gamelan Music

Immerse yourself in the soothing sounds of Javanese gongs and xylophones in this performance by the gamelan ensemble of the Indonesian Institute of the Arts. The orchestra features a vast array of bronze gongs and bronze-key xylophones; mellifluous vocals and classical fiddle complete the beguiling mix. This performance was recorded in 2013 as part of Performing Indonesia: A Conference and Festival of Music, Dance, and Drama.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Man playing an instrument on stage

Yogic Sounds of India

Immerse yourself in the yoga of sound (nada yoga) through contemplative melodic explorations and invigorating rhythmic improvisations performed by K. Sridhar, one of India’s most prominent soloists on the sarod (Indian lute). Sridhar believes Indian ragas “can be appreciated as a language that reveals different aspects of the Divine,” and he discusses the yoga of sound in the podcast notes. This performance was recorded live in concert in 2013 in conjunction with the exhibition Yoga: The Art of Transformation.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

This portion of the scroll A Hundred Birds Worship the Phoenixes focuses on the legendary origin of this mythical bird. In this version of the story, the birds of the forest gather annually to pay homage to the phoenixes for saving their lives during a terrible crisis (a forest fire in one case, a drought in another). Once saved, the birds shower their self-sacrificing heroes with feathers plucked from their own bodies, transforming the phoenixes into the multicolored birds of myth. Detail, A Hundred Birds Worship the Phoenixes, Xu Xi (act. mid-10th century). China, Qing dynasty, 18th century. Ink and color on silk. Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1909.218.

Chinese Music for the Phoenix: Washington Guzheng Society

Enjoy the graceful melodies and lovely textures of the classical Chinese guzheng, a zither with twenty-one strings that dates to the fifth century BCE. Virtuoso Bing Xia and her student Rujia Teng perform classical and contemporary works that embody many aspects of the mythical phoenix of Chinese legend. Their performance was recorded in 2013 in conjunction with the exhibition Nine Deaths, Two Births: Xu Bing’s Phoenix Project, which was on view in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery from April 27 to September 2, 2013.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

 

Naseer Shamma’s Al-Oyoun Ensemble

Hear evocative solos and refreshing new arrangements of Arab music performed by Naseer Shamma and his Cairo-based ensemble. One of the Middle East’s leading ‘ud (lute) virtuosos, Shamma is joined by musicians performing on violin, flute (nay), dulcimer (qanun), cello, and percussion. The concert includes Shamma’s original compositions, Venus and Halat Wajd (Rapture.)

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

The Momenta Quartet originally assembled a version ofthe program, “Modern Awakenings: New Music Inspired by Buddhism,” at the request of the Rubin Museum of Art (New York), which specializes in Tibetan Buddhist and other Himalayan art. The Quartet’s members are (left to right) Emilie-Anne Gendron, violin; Adda Kridler, violin; Stephanie Griffin, viola; and Michael Haas, cello.

Modern Awakenings: New Music Inspired by Buddhism

Composers from Malaysia, Japan, China, and the United States explore aspects of Buddhism through music written for string quartet. Formed in 2004, the adventuresome Momenta Quartet has performed often in New York at BargeMusic, Tonic, Le Poisson Rouge, The Stone, Roulette, and Symphony Space. It also serves as the quartet-in-residence at Temple University. This concert was recorded as part of the Meyer Concert Series at the Freer Gallery of Art on November 8, 2012.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Left to right: Members of the Saudi Ensemble perform at the Sackler Gallery in November 2012 on ud (lute), violin, and qanun (zither). Pictured are Mohammad Sultan, ‘ud; Adel Adbul Dayem, violin; and Abdullah Khateri, qanun.

Sounds from Arabia: Arab Music from the Saudi Ensemble

Experience traditional music for Saudi weddings, fishing expeditions, love songs, and other occasions performed by this six-member ensemble from Jeddah. The musicians play violin, ‘ud (lute), nay (flute), tabla (drum), and qanun (zither). Recorded in November 2012 in conjunction with the exhibition Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Ulzhan Baibosynova performs music for voice and dombyra at the Sackler Gallery in 2012. She specializes in the epic songs of Kazakhstan and has performed at Carnegie Hall and the London Coliseum. Along with Raushan Orozbaeva, she represented Kazakhstan in the River of Music Festival held in London prior to the Summer Olympics in 2012.

The Bardic Divas: Women’s Voices from Kazakhstan

Experience the powerful music of Kazakhstan’s nomadic culture, performed by three women who specialize in performing heroic epics, lyrical songs of celebration, and shamanic fiddle. Their music evokes the expansive plains and open skies of Central Asia as well as the long history of the Kazakhs who have prospered in a harshly beautiful land at the heart of the Silk Road. This concert features Ulzhan Baibosynova and Ardak Issataeva on vocals and dombyra (Kazakh lute) and Raushan Orazbaeva on qobyz (Kazakh fiddle). It was presented in conjunction with the exhibition Nomads and Networks: The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan in 2012.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

 

Kayhan Kalhor uses a plucking technique in performing on the traditionally bowed instrument. He and Behrouz Jamali take a bow following their performance at the Freer Gallery on March 17, 2012.

Persian Classical Music

Hear this three-time Grammy nominee and original member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble return to his roots in this performance of Persian classical music on kamanche, the traditional Iranian fiddle. Kayhan Kalhor’s fluid and compelling improvisations on the classic Persian modes have brought this venerable music tradition to new heights for audiences around the world. This performance was recorded at the Meyer Auditorium of the Freer Gallery of Art on March 17, 2012.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Calefax Reed Quintet: Bonus Track

Experience the painterly palette of sounds created by composers Claude Debussy and Enrique Granados in this concert celebrating the 150th anniversary of Debussy’s birth. The virtuosic Calefax Reed Quintet, from the Netherlands, performs its own lush arrangements of Debussy’s works, which were deeply influenced by the American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler. This concert was presented as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series on March 2, 2012, and made possible in part through support from the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

This concert podcast explores relationships between visual arts and music, specifically the work of American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), his influence on French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918), and their mutual connection to Japan. During the 1870s and 80s, Whistler created a series of dark, atmospheric paintings of nighttime landscapes that he called "nocturnes," such as this one depicting the south bank of the Thames River. His inspiration for these works came, in part, from Japanese woodblock prints, while the term "nocturne" was suggested to Whistler by one of his patrons, Frederick Leyland, an amateur pianist. Leyland, in turn, borrowed the label from Frédéric Chopin's piano works of the same name, written in the 1830s. Some years later, Debussy was inspired by Whistler (rather than Chopin) when he composed orchestral works that he in turn titled "nocturnes" in the 1890s. Nocturne: Blue and Silver—Battersea Reach; by James McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903); 1870-1875; oil on canvas; gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1902.97a-b

Calefax Reed Quintet: Walden

Experience the painterly palette of sounds created by composers Claude Debussy and Enrique Granados in this concert celebrating the 150th anniversary of Debussy’s birth. The virtuosic Calefax Reed Quintet, from the Netherlands, performs its own lush arrangements of Debussy’s works, which were deeply influenced by the American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler. This concert was presented as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series on March 2, 2012, and made possible in part through support from the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

The ensemble for this concert in February 2012 featured performers on several instruments modeled after those preserved in the Shoso-in. Left to right are Fuyuhiko Sasaki, kugo (harp); Mayumi Miyata, sho (mouth organ); Kyoko Kato, chimes; Hitomo Nakamura, hichiriki (double-reed); and Takeshi Sasamoto, Shoso-in shakuhachi.

Music From Japan: Echoes of the Silk Road

Hear new and reconstructed music for an ancient West Asian harp that was preserved, along with other Silk Road treasures, at the Shoso-in, an eighth-century Japanese imperial storehouse in the temple city of Nara. Harp soloist Fuyuhiko Sasaki recreates the sound of the kugo (harp) in works commissioned for the National Theater of Japan and to commemorate the 1,200th anniversary of the city of Kyoto and honor the victims of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. He was joined by five other ensemble members for this concert recorded at the Freer Gallery on February 22, 2012, as part of Music From Japan Festival 2012.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Heo Yoon-jeong is director of the Tori Ensemble and Tori Project. Here she performs on ajaeng (bowed zither) at the Freer|Sackler on December 8, 2011.

The Arirang of Tori: A Korean and American Jazz Collaboration

Hear Korea’s most beloved folksong, “Arirang,” interpreted by seven leading improvisers from Korea and New York. Led by Heo Yoon-jeong on zithers and Ned Rothenberg on reeds, the Tori Project treats five regional styles of “Arirang” to a compelling array of variations and extrapolations. This concert was recorded at the Freer|Sackler on December 8, 2011.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

This detail, from a carved lacquer box, belongs to a series of intimate vignettes showing gentlemen enjoying music in outdoor settings. In this scene, an elderly musician plays the pipa for his friends, who are seated in a bamboo grove. Because the group shown on the lacquer box includes seven members, it is tempting to associate the scene with the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, a group of scholars, writers, and musicians who shared an interest in Taoist ideas. It is said that they chose to resign their official posts and live in seclusion to avoid the political difficulties that arose at court during the late third century CE. Detail, carved lacquer food box. Wang Ming, late 15th century. China, Ming dynasty, Hongzhi reign, 1488–1505. Carved black, red, and yellow lacquer over wood. Purchase, F1968.76a–b.

Sounds of the Dragon: Virtuoso Music for Chinese and Western Instruments

Hear new works for violin, cello, piano, erhu, and pipa composed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Zhou Long; Beijing-based composer Lu Pei; and Chen Yi, winner of the Charles Ives Living Award. Two outstanding ensembles–Music From China and Music From Copland House–join forces for this performance, presented as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series on November 3, 2011.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Yumi Kurosawa performs koto with the Lark Quartet at the Freer Gallery of Art in the Washington, DC, premiere of Daron Hagen’s concerto Genji. From left to right are Deborah Buck, violin; Basia Danilow, violin; Yumi Kurosawa, koto; Caroline Stinson, cello; and Kathryn Lockwood, viola.

Koto Meets Quartet: Yumi Kurosawa and the Lark String Quartet

Hear a gorgeous new concerto for the Japanese koto and Western string quartet by American composer Daron Hagen, who has written works for the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Kings Singers, among many others. Preceding that are two contrasting works for solo koto: a classical piece by seventeenth-century composer Kengyo Yatsuhashi and Yumi Kurosawa’s own new work for the instrument. This concert was recorded in the Freer|Sackler’s Meyer Auditorium as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series on October 13, 2011.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

The taste for European art among the Chinese court extended to architecture, as exemplified in this painting that most likely refers to an imperial villa built by the Qianlong Emperor’s half-brother. A synthesis of Chinese and Italianate styles, the villa exemplifies the imperial court’s cosmopolitan nature in the late eighteenth century. Portrait of Hongyan, Prince Guo. China, Qing dynasty, 18th century. Ink and color on silk. Purchase–Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and partial gift of Richard G. Pritzlaff, S1991.47

The Global Baroque: Four Nations Ensemble with Rosa Lamoreaux, soprano

During the era of Bach and Handel, European music traveled to Asia and the Americas with missionaries, merchants, and performers. This concert, recorded in 2011, features a sonata written by a Jesuit composer for the emperor of China in the Forbidden City in 1720, along with baroque music heard in Latin America and the newly founded United States.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

man singing on stage

Sufi Music from India: The Chishty Sufi Sama Ensemble

Hear the driving rhythms and vocal gymnastics of qawwali, Sufi music from South Asia, performed by an ensemble based in Ajmer Sharif, one of India’s most sacred Sufi shrines. Present throughout much of the Islamic world, Sufis seek to personally experience the divine through music, poetry, self-discipline, and contemplation. The Chishty order of Sufis was founded in India in the thirteenth century.

This recording was made live in concert at the Meyer Auditorium on April 30, 2011.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

The featured pianists on this podcast are (left to right) Jenny Lin (born in Taiwan), Quynh Nguyen (born in Hanoi), and Xiayin Wang (born in Shanghai). Jenny Lin’s recording of the Shostakovich Preludes was voted Best of 2009 by the Washington Post. Quynh Nguyen won top prize at the International Piano Concerto Competition and now teaches at Hunter College in New York. Xiayin Wang, who has appeared at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, was called “a paragon of virtuosity” by the Washington Post.

Asia on Piano

Enjoy virtuosic arrangements of feisty folk songs from China and Vietnam, along with new music evoking calm landscapes of Asia. These selections are drawn from performances by pianists Xiayin Wang, Jenny Lin, and Quynh Nguyen, who appeared at the Freer Gallery of Art in 2010 and 2011.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Shujaat Khan belongs to the lineage known as the Imdad Khan gharana. He is the seventh virtuoso in an unbroken line from a family that has produced many musical masters. His style, known as the gayaki ang, is imitative of the human voice. These photos show him in performance at the Freer Gallery of Art on April 30, 2010.

North Indian Classical Music: Shujaat Khan, sitar; Abhiman Kaushal, tabla

Grammy Award nominee Shujaat Khan is one of the leading exponents of Indian classical music. On the occasion of India’s fiftieth anniversary of independence, he performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall and for the United Nations at Assembly Hall in Geneva, Switzerland. He also has appeared at Royal Albert Hall in London, Royce Hall in Los Angeles, and Congress Hall in Berlin. With the innovative Indo-Persian trio Ghazal, he earned a Grammy nomination in 2004 for the group’s third recording, Rain. This performance was recorded in concert at the Freer Gallery on April 30, 2010.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

The large pear-shaped lute at center is the ancient Japanese biwa, introduced to Japan from China (where it is called pipa) in the seventh century. The instrument found its way into all strata of Japanese society, played by the aristocracy and blind beggar-priests, accompanying Buddhist sutras and secular stories. The biwa used by the Reigakusha ensemble is modeled after instruments preserved in the eighth-century imperial treasure house in Nara known as the Shosoin.

Sukeyasu Shiba’s Gagaku Universe: The Reigakusha Ensemble

Japanese composer Sukeyasu Shiba leads his Reigakusha ensemble in a performance of original and reconstructed music for the ancient royal ensemble known as gagaku. A longtime member of the gagaku orchestra for the Imperial Household Agency, Shiba composes works that revitalize a highly ritualized musical repertoire rarely heard in the West. This performance was part of the thirty-fifth anniversary celebration of Music From Japan, based in New York City, and marked that organization’s twelfth annual program at the Freer Gallery. Recorded in concert February 24, 2010.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Bahman Panahi performs at the Freer Gallery on the modern Persian lute known as a tar. The six-stringed instrument was created in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century by adapting the ancient rabab. The tar is played with a plectrum and has a double-chambered sound-box covered with a thin skin of animal parchment.

Persian Classical Music: Bahman Panahi, tar and setar; Ali Mojallal, tombak – Part One

Enjoy a recital by the Paris-based Iranian virtuoso Bahman Panahi, who made his American debut in 2009 at Harvard University. He is one of the leading exponents of Persian classical music, an improvisational tradition related to the ragas of India. Trained in calligraphy as well as music, Panahi has appeared in concerts and workshops throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, and has performed at Carnegie Hall. This concert was recorded in the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium on Friday, October 30, 2009, in conjunction with the exhibition Falnama: The Book of Omens.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Bahman Panahi performs at the Freer Gallery on the modern Persian lute known as a tar. The six-stringed instrument was created in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century by adapting the ancient rabab. The tar is played with a plectrum and has a double-chambered sound-box covered with a thin skin of animal parchment.

Persian Classical Music: Bahman Panahi, tar and setar; Ali Mojallal, tombak – Part Two

Enjoy a recital by the Paris-based Iranian virtuoso Bahman Panahi, who made his American debut in 2009 at Harvard University. He is one of the leading exponents of Persian classical music, an improvisational tradition related to the ragas of India. Trained in calligraphy as well as music, Panahi has appeared in concerts and workshops throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, and has performed at Carnegie Hall. This concert was recorded in the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium on Friday, October 30, 2009, in conjunction with the exhibition Falnama: The Book of Omens.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

L. Subramaniam performs at the Freer Gallery with his son, Ambi Subramaniam. The guru-disciple relationship is crucial to maintaining the tradition of Indian classical music, and it often extends to parent and child.

L. Subramaniam: Master of Indian Music

One of the giants of Indian classical music made his first Smithsonian appearance since 1994 for this concert, recorded on September 24, 2009. During the thirty years of his international career, L. Subramaniam has performed with jazz artists Stéphane Grapelli, Herbie Hancock, and Jean-Luc Ponty, as well as the New York Philharmonic; written film scores for Salaam Bombay! and Mississippi Masala; earned a Grammy nomination; and received the revered title of Padma Bhushan from the president of India.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Turkish musicians Neva Özgen (kemençe) and Murat Aydemir (tanbur), at far right, joined the early music ensemble Lux Musica for a concert performance and lecture-demonstrations on music from the life of Dimitrie Cantemir (1673–1723) in conjunction with the Sackler Gallery exhibition, The Tsars and the East: Gifts from Turkey and Iran in the Moscow Kremlin. A scholar, musician, and diplomat, Cantemir served four Ottoman sultans before launching a failed rebellion in his Moldavian homeland and escaping to Moscow with the help of Tsar Peter the Great. From the left, above, are musicians Mesut Özgen, lute; Linda Burman-Hall, director and percussion; Amy Brodo, viola da gamba; Lars Johannesson, baroque flute and piccolo; and David Wilson, baroque violin.

From Moldavia to Istanbul: The Musical World of Dimitrie Cantemir

Travel to the Ottoman Empire through the music of composer, scholar, and diplomat Dimitrie Cantemir (16731723), a flamboyant and brilliant figure who served four Ottoman sultans and Russia’s Tsar Peter the Great. Cantemir’s treatise on Turkish classical music included more than three hundred fifty original compositions. After he led an ill-fated rebellion against the Ottomans in his native Moldavia, he escaped to Moscow where he organized lavish musical events with his daughter, a harpsichordist trained in the Italian style. Turkish instrumentalists Neva zgen and Murat Aydemir join the baroque music ensemble Lux Musica to recreate the sounds of Cantemir’s Moldavian homeland and his careers in Istanbul and Moscow. Recorded live in concert at the Meyer Auditorium, Freer Gallery of Art, on June 11, 2009.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

The Shanghai Quartet and composer Vivian Fung following the world premiere of her String Quartet no. 2.

Shanghai Quartet

Hear the world premiere of Vivian Fung’s String Quartet no. 2, commissioned by the Shanghai Quartet, along with Mozart’s String Quartet no. 15 and Beethoven’s monumental Quartet opp. 130/133, performed by one of the world’s leading chamber music ensembles. The Shanghai Quartet has appeared annually at the Freer Gallery of Art since 1996. One of their recent performances inspired the Washington Post to applaud their “self-effacing beauty of sound . . . gorgeous tone with an unwavering unanimity of expressive intent . . . a musical conversation of stunning authenticity and presence.” This concert was recorded before a live audience as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series on April 23, 2009.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Vocalist Mamak Khadem performs at the Freer Gallery of Art as part of Nowruz: A Persian New Year Celebration on March 7, 2009. The Iranian-born artist, based in Los Angeles, was formerly lead singer of the Persian-fusion group Axiom of Choice. This concert included selections from her solo CD Jostojoo/Forever Seeking (Banyan Tree Productions 2007).

Music for the Persian New Year: Mamak Khadem

Iranian-born vocalist Mamak Khadem, formerly of the Persian-fusion band Axiom of Choice, performs songs inspired by melodies from Armenia, Kurdistan, Baluchistan, and Turkey, as well as music from Iran. Her ensemble features Ole Mathisen, clarinet and saxophone; Jamshied Sharifi, keyboard; Hamid Saeidi, santur (hammered dulcimer); and Ben Wittman, percussion. This performance was recorded in concert at the Freer Gallery on March 7, 2009, as part of the Freer and Sackler’s celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

The PRISM Quartet peforms Chen Yi's Septet. PRISM has appeared in Carnegie Hall's Making Music Series at Alice Tully Hall with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and throughout Latin America under the auspices of the United States Information Agency. They can be heard weekly on PBS playing the theme music for the news magazine Now.

A New World of Sound: PRISM Saxophone Quartet and Music From China

In this first-of-its-kind collaboration, soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones join with traditional Chinese instruments to perform new works written for them by Grammy Award-winners Zhou Long and Chen Yi, among others. The New York Times praised the PRISM Quartet for its “sensitivity, technical assurance, and mellow sweet sound,” while the Kansas City Star raved that “Music From China is music from heaven.” This performance was recorded in concert in the Freer’s Meyer Auditorium on March 1, 2009.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

Iraqi-American jazz artist Amir ElSaffar, second from left, leads the ensemble in his original concert-length suite, Two Rivers, which blends elements of jazz and classical Iraqi and Arab music. The CD recording of the work was named to top-ten lists for jazz recordings in 2007 by the Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer and was ranked runner-up for the top debut jazz release of the year by the Village Voice. Left to right: Jason Adasiewicz, vibraphone; Amir ElSaffar, trumpet; Nasheet Waits, drums; Rudresh Mahanthappa, saxophone; and Carlo DeRosa, bass.

Iraqi Jazz Fusions: Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers

Iraqi-American jazz artist Amir ElSaffar leads this cross-cultural quintet in a live concert rendition of Two Rivers, an original multi-movement work inspired by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the current strife in Iraq, and the common ground between American jazz and Iraqi classical music. ElSaffar sets the modes of Arab music to innovative grooves, free ensemble playing, and multilayered sound textures, resulting in a work that the BBC praises as “harrowing to absorb, full of as much beauty as pain.” He performs on trumpet, santur, and vocals, along with Rudresh Mahanthappa, saxophone; Nasheet Waits, drums; Carlo De Rosa, bass; and Jason Adasiewicz, vibraphone. This concert was made possible, in part, with support from the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, and was recorded in concert in the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium on February 7, 2009.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

The Tori Ensemble with (left to right) Erik Friedlander, cello; Satoshi Takeishi, percussion; Yoon Jeong Heo, geomungo (zither); Kwon Soon Kang, vocal and gong; Young Chi Min, daegum (flute) and janggo (drum); and Ned Rothenberg, clarinet, saxophone, and shakuhachi.

A Korean and American Jazz Excursion: Five Directions

Six boundary-breaking musicians from Korea and the United States join forces for this cross-cultural jazz collaboration evoking the origins of the universe, the cosmic balance of yin and yang, and the five elements of creation. Three leading lights of the New York improv scene–Ned Rothenberg (clarinet, saxophone, and shakuhachi), Erik Friedlander (cello), and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion)–are joined by three Korean musicians–Yoon Jeong Heo (geomungo/zither), Kwon Soon Kang (vocal), and Young Chi Min (daegum/flute and janggo/drum) –for this unique experiment that blends free jazz and traditional Korean music.

This concert took place in the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium on December 9, 2008.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/

In margapati, a female dancer portrays the King of the Forest. Created in the early 1940s by choreographer I Nyoman Kaler, this dance is like others from the era in which female dancers perform character studies of young men. The dancer is Luh Made Didik Dwi Wahyuni, who currently teaches dance at the University of Wyoming.

Balinese Music and Dance: Gamelan Mitra Kusuma

Experience the shimmering brilliance of a Balinese gamelan orchestra and see images of the dramatic dances from the island’s Hindu-Balinese traditions as the Washington, D.C., area’s own Gamelan Mitra Kusuma (Flowering Friendship) performs a program of classical and contemporary repertoire. Three guest artists join gamelan director I Nyoman Suadin, who studied at Bali’s Conservatory of the Performing Arts and currently teaches at the University of Maryland, Swarthmore College, and the Eastman School of Music. This performance took place in the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium on December 4, 2008.

See images, program notes and related artwork at https://www.freersackler.si.edu/series/music/