On the heels of her world premiere performances of Vijay Iyer’s Human Archipelago concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Edward Gardner last fall, cellist Inbal Segev gives the U.S. premiere of the work this month with the Oregon Symphony (Jan 13–16), followed by performances with the Boise Philharmonic (Jan 21) and Illinois Philharmonic (Feb 25). The Oregon and Boise orchestras were co-commissioners of the piece, facilitated by New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices initiative, which fosters collaboration and collective action between U.S. orchestras and composers toward racial and gender equity in classical music. Other co-commissioners who will perform the piece in coming seasons include the Fresno Philharmonic and Las Vegas Philharmonic. A short preview of the piece can be seen here.

Iyer explains:

Human Archipelago uses the concerto format to stage a series of precarious encounters among the soloist, the orchestra, and the ‘travelers,’ a group of performers who play only by ear. The first movement, ‘Scenes in Free Fall,’ sets a single melody in a series of unstable environments; the next, ‘Xenia,’ imagines a blessed visit from strangers; and the last, ‘To be one of many,’ builds a fugue-like collective polyphony before giving way to a coda where the soloist and travelers unite.

“This piece was born of our evolving relationship to two urgent, entangled global phenomena: climate change and mass migration. It is my hope that the music might offer an opportunity to reflect on our ethical responsibilities to our fellow human beings in the present and future — indeed to rethink our very notion of ‘us.’”

The New York Times describes Iyer as a “social conscience, multimedia collaborator, rhapsodist and multicultural gateway.” A tenured Harvard professor whose many honors include a MacArthur Fellowship, a Grammy nomination and Jazz Times’s Artist of the Year, Iyer was one of the composers represented on Volume II of Segev’s ambitious long-term commissioning project, “20 for 2020,” which culminated last fall with the release of the fourth and final volume and the physical release of a 2-CD boxed set of all twenty commissioned compositions for cello from some of today’s most sought-after composers. Iyer and Segev performed his commissioned work, The Window for cello and piano, together on Volume II.

The completion of “20 for 2020” and the Iyer premiere represent just a part of what has been a banner season for the cellist. After performing and recording Human Archipelago with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Edward Gardner, she began a series of performances around the world that continue this winter and spring in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship. Each performance is anchored by Anna Clyne’s DANCE, a cello concerto commissioned by Segev and recorded in 2020. The “hugely impressive” (The Guardian) recording on the Avie label has subsequently been played more than eight million times on Spotify. Segev’s winter and spring are rounded out by chamber music concerts in Concord, Massachusetts and Beacon, New York, as well as in New York City with her longstanding partners from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Photo by Veronica L. Yankowski