Stillwater Music Festival returns for seventh season this month

The chamber music quartet Brooklyn Rider host the seventh annual Stillwater Music Festival Aug. 15-23. Performances are at the Washburn County Historic Courthouse, the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis and a free performance at the Stillwater Public Library.

The Stillwater Music Festival returns for a seventh season Aug. 15-23 offering three collaborative programs between festival organizers, Brooklyn Rider, and three guests: Edward Arron on cello, Kayhan Kalhor on the kemancheh (Persian spike fiddle), and Béla Fleck on banjo.

The quartet presents three concerts and a number of outreach activities, with this summer’s program focusing on the transformative juxtaposition of the string quartet plus a guest instrumentalist. Each concert displays unique collaborative relationships built on friendship and shared musical affinities.

Three-quarters of Brooklyn Rider’s members have Minnesota roots, and they look forward to returning to Stillwater each summer. For the festival’s sixth season, they presented an evening of Philip Glass quartets, and previewed their signature interpretation of Beethoven’s Op 131 string quartet along with a first in the world of classical string quartets; a group composition. Both works form the backbone of their latest critically acclaimed album entitled “Seven Steps.”

Now Brooklyn Rider returns with three uniquely talented friends, exploring the rich medium and communicative possibilities of the string quartet plus one.

The festival opens Aug. 15 at the Washington County Historic Courthouse with Brooklyn Rider and cellist Edward Arron, one of the quartet’s oldest friends. The program includes a suite from Giovanni Sollima’s Viaggio in Italia, a quintet by 18th century visionary Luigi Boccherini, György Kurtág’s mercurial Microludes for string quartet, and Schubert’s ‘novel of heavenly length’, the famed cello quintet in C major.

            On Aug. 20, Brooklyn Rider is joined by long time collaborator, the Persian kemancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor. Appearing together for the first time in the Twin Cities, Brooklyn Rider and Kalhor met while working together in Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project. With the Stillwater Music Festival returning to the Cedar Cultural Center for a second consecutive season, their program will feature various works from “Silent City,” including Mr. Kalhor’s deeply moving title track, a tribute to the devastated city of Hallubjah in Iraq. Also featured will be Minnesota premieres of “Three Persian Miniatures” by Brooklyn Rider violinist Colin Jacobsen and “Culai” by Lev ‘Ljova’ Zhurbin, a 2011 Chamber Music America commission that celebrates the life of founding member Nicolae Neacsu (“Culai”) of the Romanian gypsy ensemble “Taraf de Haidouks.”

The annual free family concert is at the Stillwater Public Library Aug. 21 and features excerpts from Brooklyn Rider’s signature repertoire. This popular one hour event for the community will allow families to experience and interact with the members of Brooklyn Rider in a relaxed setting.

The exciting season finale of the festival is Aug. 23 at the Washington County Historic Courthouse featuring 14-time Grammy Award Winner Béla Fleck. In addition to Mendelssohn’s Op 12 quartet and new works composed for Brooklyn Rider by members of the quartet’s circle of friends, the concert includes Fleck’s new work for banjo and string quartet. Other works will be announced.

Open rehearsals and other informal events will be announced in the coming weeks at

“Following last year’s sixth anniversary season, which focused on the elastic world of the string quartet alone, we are excited to let this season be all about the joy of collaboration!” said Brooklyn Rider violist Nicholas Cords, “We are giddy about the prospect of welcoming three of our finest string playing/plucking friends to Stillwater and Minneapolis venues this year: Edward Arron, Kayhan Kalhor, and Béla Fleck. We think our Stillwater Music Festival audience will be amazed by the range of sounds produced in this year’s festival, with a wide majority of the material being heard in Minnesota for the first time. We hope you will collaborate with your presence at the seventh annual SMF!”

            The Stillwater Music Festival was founded seven years ago by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, whose members include violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords, and cellist Eric Jacobsen. Past festivals have included world premieres by Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky and Colin Jacobsen, numerous Minnesota premieres, and collaborations with the Irish fiddler Martin Hayes, singer-songwriter Christina Courtin, mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson, the band 2 Foot Yard, visual artist Kevork Mourad, and many more.

Brothers Eric and Colin Jacobsen are deeply rooted in Minnesota. Their father, Edmund Jacobsen is a former violinist with the Minneapolis Symphony (as the Minnesota Orchestra was formerly known) and a native of the Twin Cities. Now based in New York, the Jacobsen family returns every summer to visit the family cottage on Square Lake in Washington County. Violist Nicholas Cords grew up in White Bear Lake, and studied at the MacPhail Center for Music as well as with the late Alice Preves of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

The Stillwater Music Festival Schedule

Stillwater Music Festival Opener: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15

Brooklyn Rider and Edward Arron, cello

Program: Luigi Boccherini: Cello Quintet in E major, G. 288; György Kurtág: Hommage à Mihály András, 12 microludes for string quartet, Op 13 Giovanni Sollima: Selections from Viaggio in Italia; Franz Schubert: Cello Quintet in C major, D. 956

Where: The Washington County Historic Courthouse 101 West Pine St., Stillwater, MN

General admission $25, Students $10 (with valid ID) For tickets, call the Stillwater Music Festival at  (651) 587-3518 or visit


Stillwater Music Festival at the Cedar Cultural Center: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20

Brooklyn Rider and Kayhan Kalhor:

Program: Colin Jacobsen: Atashgah and Three Persian Miniatures: Lev ‘Ljova’ Zhurbin: Culai; Kayhan Kalhor: Silent City

Where: The Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Ave. South, Minneapolis. Tickets $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Note: Tickets for this concert only are available through the Cedar Cultural Center: website: or by calling 612-338-2674.


Stillwater Music Festival Free Family Concert: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21

Brooklyn Rider

Where: The Stillwater Public Library, 224 3rd St. North Stillwater
Free one-hour event (no reservations required)


Stillwater Music Festival Finale: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 23

Brooklyn Rider and Béla Fleck (banjo)

Program: Felix Mendelssohn: String Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 12; Various: The Brooklyn Rider Almanac; Béla Fleck: new work for string quartet and banjo; other works TBA

Where: The Washington County Historic Courthouse 101 West Pine St., Stillwater

General admission $25, Students $10 (with valid ID). For tickets, call the Stillwater Music Festival at  (651) 587-3518 visit


For more information about the Stillwater Music Festival or to inquire about tickets, visit or call (651) 587-3518. To learn more about Brooklyn Rider and to hear their music, visit