JAMES NYORAKU SCHLEFER, Artistic Director
MEG FAGAN, Producer
Kanrecki Surprise Saturday, September 17th 2016

A surprise concert celebrating the 60th Borthday of KSA’s Artistic Director, Shakuhachi Grand Master James Nyoraku Schlefer.

 

The Age of Air Saturday, July 25th 2015

"THE AGE OF AIR” - A DOUBLE SHAKUHACHI CONCERT! World Premiere on November 14, 2015
A newly commissioned work by composer James Matheson for two shakuhachi and chamber orchestra. Featuring James Nyoraku Schlefer and Akihito Obama on shakuhachi and the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra.

The Church of St. John the Divine
2450 River Oaks Boulevard, Houston, TX  Info

Review of “On Zephyr’s Strings” Monday, February 24th 2014

Read the REVIEW of this fabulous concert featuring Ensemble Epomeo and James Nyoraku Schlefer, on February 23, 2014 at the Tenri Cultural Institute.

CONCERTONET – Review by Harry Rolnick  02/23/2014  

On Zephyr’s Strings:
Ludwig van Beethoven: Trio in D Major, Opus 9, No. 3
Victoria Bond: Rashomon for Shakuhachi and String Trio (World Premiere)
György Kurtág: From Signs, Games and Messages
James Nyoraku Schlefer: Sidewalk Dances for Shakuhachis and Cello (World premiere)
Mieczyslaw Weinberg: String Trio, Opus 48

James Nyoraku Schlefer (Shakuhachi), Ensemble Epomeo: Diane Pascal (Violin), David Yang (Viola), Kenneth Woods, (Cello)


Since our Constitution allows us freedom of choice, I took advantage of this today, but it was agonizing.

Over at Carnegie Hall, Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma were playing an all-Brahms concert, to which, the New Yorker wrote, “all roads go.” But I’ve heard them play Brahms before, I knew how fine it would be, so my choice was way downtown.

Yes, a cello (the estimable musician, writer and conductor Kenneth Woods), but everything else was different. America’s finest shakuhachi player, two world premieres, a rare work by the sadly rarely-performed Polish-Russian genius Mieczyslaw Weinberg, seven of György Kurtág’s epigraphic gems, and an early Beethoven.

Whatever the road to Carnegie Hall, I preferred to walk to the Terri Cultural Institute. The art (a rice-paper faux-ceiling, revealing objects slowly through the clouds) and the music were both challenging and inventive.

And for those who, like myself, have felt that the shakuhachi is fine for heavy breathing and Zen-style meditation, James Nyoraku Schlefer had a few surprises. I had heard him before, at BargeMusic, where his Sankyoku No. 1 for koto, shakuhachi and cello was a quirky amalgam of Japanese and light jazz.

What I hadn’t known was that the shakuhachi came in various sizes and registers, so he played two of them with an old partner, cellist Kenneth Woods, who had conducted his Shakuhachi Concerto. Here, the colors of cello and Japanese flute were carefully and felicitously blended.

The work was called Sidewalk Dances, embracing Mr. Schlefer in the city (fast) and more leisurely in the countryside. But there was Zen breathiness with his instruments, which could have been wood recorders. (Except that you can’t get a true glissando on recorder as you can here.) The moments of the tenor shakuhachi and tenor cello were surprisingly beautiful. The other sections were surprising for their lightness, seeming ease and joy of playing. In the final section Mr. Schlefer’s jazz treatment made him a veritable Herbie Mann with a fairly jazzy cello on the side.

The other world premiere, also commissioned by Kyo-Shin-An Arts, was far more Japanese, since it was based on the Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon. It takes more than a little chuzpah to create original music for this movie of crime, illusions, moods and enigmas. Fumio Hayasaka’s original music was as haunting as the film (Kurosawa was as careful with his composers as with his actors), but Victoria Bond composed an original work inspired by the “crime and variations” of that 1950 classic.

The work with Mr. Schlefer and the wonderful trio of the evening, Ensemble Epomeo, was a not totally convincing mixture. Starting off with a pentatonic Japanese motive, it moved onto a theme played by cello, joined by the Japanese flute, with a series of variations, themselves based on parts of the film as well as musical forms. That was a high-wire act, but Ms. Bond is most deft composer, and she had a few stunning moments. One could hear the violence through the dissonance, follow with a slower “calculation” and finally burst through with more violence, disguised as passion.

It was a clever invention, for Ms. Bond is a most capable composer, and her first venture with the Japanese instrument was a happy partnership. But trying experiments with one of the only perfect films ever made is like gilding...well, gilding the Japanese chrysanthemum.

One can never underrate Mieczyslaw Weinberg, though he is little heard in New York. The last time was the St Petersburg Orchestra with his Moldavian Overture. Mr. Weinberg, like his friend Dmitri Shostakovich, were truly fecund composers. Weinberg had written about 21 symphonies and much chamber music, like the Trio played this afternoon. New to this writer, but filled with zest, juicy violin solos by Dianne Pascal, and succinct movements.

That same trio sparkled through Beethoven’s early C Minor Trio for a finale. But it was the opening work, seven selections from György Kurtág’s Signs, Games and Dances which impressed most of all.

Kurtág, I must confess, has become an obsession. Infinite works, each different, each a one-carat diamond, a flash, a bolt of lightning, an epigraph...

Yes, it was Mr. Schlefer who supplied the Japanese music. But György Kurtág’s music was closer to a Japanese sketch, half a haiku, an inhalation, an inspiration.

The seven works were dissimilar. An out-of-tune Romanian dance, a crazy waltz, an embrace of softness...each demanded not only full attention from the audience, but from this entrancing group, the most dexterous execution.

Harry Rolnick

New CD Review Saturday, May 18th 2013

It is wonderful to get another great review. This time an American one!

ASCAP Award Winners! Thursday, January 24th 2013

Kyo-Shin-An Arts is thrilled and proud to have won a 2013 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming for our 2011/12 season! We got the plaque at the CMA conference in a room full of colleagues from around the country. It was so much fun.
 
I love the way they wrote about it in the CMA Magazine. "Honored for:  Collaboration with Western artists and ensembles, commissions, and adventurous integration of Japanese instruments into contemporary Western music.” How cool is that. It really is a terrifically validating acknowledgement,  and right on the heels of the MusicWeb International Critic’s Choice “Recordings of the Year 2012” pick for our CD. What a great way to start the year.
 
Our Kammerraku concert in St. Louis on November 30 was also a huge success. The Arianna Quartet loved the work, the audience stood after every selection, and the Touhill Performing Arts Center opened the door to our return. The rest of our season is looking great too. James and Yoko will be at Duke University for a week, performing on February 22 with the Ciompi Quartet and offering multiple outreach events in conjunction with the University’s Asia/Pacific Studies Institute. March 10 is South Bend, IN with the Euclid Quartet. We have concerts in the spring at Tenri on May 4 and June 14, and two world premieres in England with the Orchestra of the Swan on May 31. And there is more to come in 2013-14.

© 2016 Kyo-Shin-An Arts