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ESYO Rewind! Symphony Orchestra Premieres Concerto for DJ/Electronics and Cello

A Look Back at the Premiere of Fabrizio Cassol's Concerto for Cello and DJ/Electronics

On Sunday, June 12, 2022, at Tanglewood's iconic Seiji Ozawa Hall in Lenox, MA, ESYO Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Etienne took the stage to premiere a brand-new version of Fabrizio Cassol's evocative Concerto for Cello, DJ/Electronics, and Orchestra. Julliard cellist Sebastian Stoger and Peabody Conservatory's DJ Wendel Patrick joined ESYO onstage for their ESYO debut. Before the performance, Fabrizio, Wendel, and Sebastian spent a week in Schenectady preparing and rehearsing the piece and hosted workshops and talks with ESYO musicians.

Were you there?  Get social and share your photos and experience online.  Don't forget to tag @empirestateyo on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Belgian composer Fabrizio Cassol flew from Europe to the Capital Region to work side by side with Music Director Etienne Abelin and ESYO Symphony Orchestra to prepare for the premiere of this innovative concerto. Fabrizio travels the world and draws inspiration from the places he visits, including Downtown Schenectady.

Before meeting up with the orchestra, Fabrizio, Etienne, Wendel, and Sebastian rehearsed together, practicing cadenzas, checking samples, proofreading final parts, and making final adjustments to the piece. This pre-rehearsal meet-up is always the first step in bringing music to life for the first time. 

The DJ/Producer played an important role in this concerto by mixing, manipulating, and scratching pre-recorded samples. DJ/Producer Wendel Patrick used hundreds of samples, including of samples of Brahms' Fourth Symphony and Sebastian's cello. What is a musical sample? A a small portion of a sound recording in another recording. 

Can a laptop or a MIDI controller become a musical instrument? The question captivated the imagination of ESYO's musicians as DJ/Producer Wendel Patrick talked about the evolution of Kevin Gift, the classical pianist, into Wendel Patrick, an internationally acclaimed music producer. Did you know? Wendel Patrick is a stage name that pays homage to Kevin Gift's late twin brother.

Together Wendel and members of ESYO explore how you can sample music and engineer sound while blending genres to create something new using turntables, a MIDI controller, and a computer. 

Wendel and Fabrizio shared stories about their travels around the world and how these experiences influenced their music. Fabrizio travels extensively in Africa and the middle east, discovering new sounds and collaborating with musicians. As exciting as it can be to experience something new, Fabrizio talked about the importance of respecting and understanding how a different culture approaches music. Music is shared, not taken. The friendships and relationships Fabrizio forged over the years opened new sonic doors for his music, but only after he secured the trust and permission of those working to preserve the sounds and music of their culture. Earlier in the week, Fabrizio hosted a workship on imrpovisation while Sebastian led a cello masterclass.

After nearly three months of rehearsals and a weeklong residency with the composer, the orchestra and soloists were ready to make the trip to Tanglewood. This performance was a triumphant return to the national stage after COVID-19 paused Symphony Orchestra's 2020 concert at Carnegie Hall.

Rehearsals began as soon as the orchestra arrived. The spirit of fun and joy radiated from the stage as they worked to put the final touches on Cassol's Concerto for Cell, DJ/Electronics, and Orchestra. The piece is a sonic essay on memory and puts a "new spin" on Brahms' 4th Symphony. DJ Wendel Patrick brought a fun, familiar, and somewhat unexpected sound to the concert hall. Throughout the rehearsal, musicians smiled as Wendel scratched, mixed, and blended unique beats and samples.

In Cassol’s words ”the past becomes the present and HIS-story becomes OUR story.”

Quoted throughout the piece are samples, riffs, and harmonies of Brahms’ final symphony. Sebastian Stoger, whos is a graduate student at Julliard, represents the past and what Johanne Brahms has written. 

The new sounds and textures produced by the DJ and turntables are innovative and uncommon additions to a classical orchestra and represent the present-day reality.  During the performance, DJ Wendel mixes a sample of Brahms' voice from an 1889 wax cylinder.  Wax cylinders were played on early phonographs called Ediphones. 

Did you know? Thomas Edison invented the Ediphone before moving to Schenectady. Edison abandoned the Ediphone after Alexander Graham Bell entered the market and created the graphophone.

A few weeks into the collaboration, Fabrizio decided to add a saxophone solo to the composition. The audience was surprised when Fabrizio entered the concert hall and walked to the stage from the back. The improvised solo included microtones, a signature element of Cassol's style. 

What are microtones? A note that exists in between the keys on a western piano.

A number of ESYO musicians appeared as soloists in the piece. ESYO graduating senior Georgia took the podium for a fun hip-hop style conducting battle with ESYO Music Director and Symphony Orchestra conductor Etienne Abelin. 



Watch the full concert stream on your computer, smartphone, or tablet and webcast to your Smart TV in ESYO's Virtual Concert Hall.