Cal Performances began the 2015-2016 season with the launch of Berkeley RADICAL (Research and Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts, and Learning), our new project to cultivate the artistic literacy of future audiences and to connect the world's most innovative artists with the intellectual capital of UC Berkeley. Through carefully curated public programs and creative artistic residencies, Berkeley RADICAL serves as a framework to expand the reach of Cal Performances by providing audiences with multiple ways to engage with a single work of art or artist. A range of extraordinary works, by the greatest international artists stretching across a wide range of genres, will elevate the impact of seeing, of attending, of being part of this season.
Three thematic strands of artistic exploration join together traditional genres with contemporary, less defined forms, encouraging us all to re-imagine conventional ideas about the performing arts. This season, we invite our audiences to consider the strands, or ideas, woven throughout the rich fabric of the season. "The Natural World" explores art that encourages us to consider our relationship with our environment and celebrates the founding of the U.S. National Park Service, which grew out of meetings here at Berkeley in 1915. The high point of this perspective is the St. Louis Symphony's performance of Messiaen's Des Canyons aux étoiles ("From the Canyons to the Stars") with an accompanying visual essay by Berkeley-based photographer Deborah O'Grady (Jan. 31). "ZellerBACH" offers new ways to consider the music of J. S. Bach and features pre-performance talks and a community response panel examining the enduring attraction of Bach's music for the artists and audiences of today. This strand was inaugurated last month with the Bay Area premières of new works by choreographer Twyla Tharp, and it continues in the spring with Bach: Six Solos, a performance by violinist Gil Shaham of Bach's solo sonatas and partitas accompanied by David Michalek's striking, original films (Apr. 14). This month's Berkeley RADICAL residencies-by Paris's Ensemble intercontemporain and Austin, Texas's Rude Mechs-begin the "ReVisions" strand, which explores new ideas of performance as the concert experience evolves beyond 20th-century traditions, and artists in a range of disciplines test conventional notions of performance practice.
Approaching 40 years as Europe's preeminent new-music group, the Ensemble intercontemporain (EIC) and its dynamic music director, Matthias Pintscher, make their Cal Performances début in two remarkable concerts that feature the American premières of works by UC Berkeley composers: We Met as Sparks, by Franck Bedrossian, and Cluster.X, by Edmund Campion and video artist Kurt Hentschläger. The EIC also performs music by Beat Furrer, Marco Stroppa, and Edgard Varèse; two pieces by Mr. Pintscher; and, in celebration of EIC founder Pierre Boulez's 90th birthday, the groundbreaking sur Incises, arguably the composer's greatest work (Nov. 6 & 7). The residency brings the Ensemble, which rarely performs in the United States, together with audiences, faculty, and students for an exploration into the process of contemporary music-making. There are artist talks with Mr. Bedrossian and Mr. Pintscher about their music; a colloquium in which the Ensemble reads new works by UC Berkeley student composers; and Next! Pierre Boulez, Matthias Pintscher, and Ensemble intercontemporain, a day-long symposium that considers the history of the EIC, its founder, and its future, and features a film, panel discussion, and musical performance. In the words of Mr. Boulez, music is "a labyrinth with no beginning and no end, full of new paths to discover, where mystery remains eternal."
The devised theater troupe Rude Mechs comes to Zellerbach Playhouse for its Cal Performances début in Stop Hitting Yourself, a whimsical meditation on modern decadence and human nature (Nov. 19-22). Rude Mechs' two-week Bay Area residency-presented by Cal Performances in partnership with UC Berkeley's Arts Research Center, the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, and San Francisco's Z Space-includes the symposium Revisions in Time: Curating Performance Across the Arts, with choreographer Trajal Harrell; Lost Realism, a conversation between the Rude Mechs and playwright Mac Wellman about the troupe's production of his Murder of Crows; and a devised theater workshop.
We welcome the remarkable Danish String Quartet back to Cal Performances (Nov. 22) after the foursome's memorable début here in 2013. Their Hertz Hall concert, the first of two this season, brings us Haydn's middle-period Quartet in C major, Op. 54, No. 2; Beethoven's sublime final chamber work, the Quartet in F major, Op. 135; and Thomas Adès's intricate and intoxicating Arcadiana (1994). During their campus visit, the ensemble participates in a colloquium, reading new music by UC Berkeley student composers, and several other engaging activities.
Our recital series begins with intrepid violinist and MacArthur Fellow Leila Josefowicz, whose intelligence and virtuosity have made her a favorite first performer of works by some of this century's greatest composers. She is joined in Hertz Hall by pianist John Novacek in an inspired program that situates a 19th-century classic, Schumann's A-minor Sonata, alongside four 20th-century masterpieces: Falla's Suite populaire espagnole, Messiaen's Thème et Variations, Erkki-Sven Tüür's Conversio, and Road Movies by Berkeley's own John Adams (Nov. 8).
Our world stage series continues with the global ambassador of African pop, Youssou N'Dour, and his 13-piece Super Étoile de Dakar (Nov. 7) and the Madrid-based Compañia Flamenca José Porcel, giving two performances of Flamenco Fire (Nov. 13 & 14). We celebrate Thanksgiving at Cal Performances with the return of the beloved Swiss mime troupe, Mummenschanz (Nov. 27-29). For more than 40 years, the inventive humor of Mummenschanz has charmed audiences of all ages, all around the world. The troupe closes out the month with a SchoolTime performance for Bay Area schoolchildren (Nov. 30).
I look forward to welcoming you to these wonderful performances.
All best wishes,
Executive and Artistic Director