“…one of the most interesting figures on the classical music scene.”
An eclectic composer who draws on a range of influences, Colin Jacobsen was named one of the top 100 composers under 40 by NPR listeners. He is also active as an Avery Fisher Career Grant-winning soloist and a touring member of Yo-Yo Ma’s famed Silk Road Ensemble. For his work as a founding member of two game-changing, audience-expanding ensembles – the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and orchestra The Knights – Jacobsen was recently selected from among the nation’s top visual, performing, media, and literary artists to receive a prestigious and substantial United States Artists Fellowship.
Colin Jacobsen’s work as a composer developed as a natural outgrowth of his chamber and orchestral collaborations. Jointly inspired by encounters with leading exponents of non-Western traditions and by his own classical heritage, his writing reveals an eclectic personal voice with a “knack for spinning lines with an elasticity that sounds uncannily like improvisation” (New York Times). Among Jacobsen’s most notable compositions for Brooklyn Rider are Brooklesca, an homage to his Brooklyn home; Beloved, do not let me be discouraged…, as heard on the quartet’s acclaimed recording with Kayhan Kalhor; and Achille’s Heel, which is showcased on Dominant Curve. His most recent compositions for the group include Three Miniatures – “vivacious, deftly drawn sketches” (New York Times), which were written for the reopening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Islamic art galleries. Jacobsen collaborated with Iran’s Siamak Aghaei to write a Persian folk-inflected composition, Ascending Bird, which he performed as soloist with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House, in a concert that was streamed live by millions of viewers worldwide. His work for dance and theater includes music for Compagnia de’ Colombari’s theatrical production of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.
As a touring member of Yo-Yo Ma’s venerated Silk Road Project since its founding in 2000, Jacobsen has participated in residencies and performances at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hollywood Bowl, and across the U.S., as well as in Azerbaijan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and Switzerland. Highlights of his journeys with the ensemble include performances in front of the world’s largest wooden Buddha statue in Nara, Japan; as part of Lincoln Center’s 50th-anniversary celebrations; at the opening of the Shanghai Special Olympics; and at the Red Fort in Agra, India. He appears on all six of the Silk Road Ensemble’s albums.
As a violin soloist, Jacobsen was “born to the instrument and its sweet, lyrical possibilities” (New York Times). He has collaborated with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony and has premiered concertos by Kevin Beavers and Lisa Bielawa. He has performed with such prominent artists as Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis, Yo-Yo Ma, Christian Tetzlaff, Mitsuko Uchida, and composer Tan Dun, with whom he toured China. With Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters as narrator, Jacobsen recently performed Stravinsky’s L’histoire du Soldat. He has regularly appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, at Bargemusic, and as a member of the Metropolitan Museum Artists in Concert, besides enjoying cross-disciplinary explorations with dance and theater companies including the New York City Ballet, Mark Morris Dance Group, and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. His numerous summer festival engagements include Caramoor, Marlboro, Mostly Mozart, Moritzburg, Ravinia, Salzburg, Tanglewood, and Taiwan’s National Concert Hall.
A graduate of the Juilliard School and the Royal Conservatory of the Hague, Jacobsen’s principal teachers have included Doris Rothenberg, Louise Behrend, Robert Mann, and Vera Beths. He received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2003.
Colin Jacobsen plays a Joseph Guarneri filius Andreae violin dating back from 1696 and a Samuel Zygmuntowicz violin made in 2008.