Classical Mixologist

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Following a wildly successful concert with Sir Mix-a-lot and the Seattle Symphony in 2014, composer and producer Gabriel Prokofiev is returning with a new commission for Music Director Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony on September 22, 24 & 25.

By Andrew Stiefel

Evening was falling in Porto, Portugal when I caught up with Gabriel Prokofiev. At the time he was sequestered in a hotel room, mixing samples recorded earlier the same day with the Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música for the world premiere of his Concerto for Orchestra and Turntables No. 2. The concert was less than 24 hours away.

That energy and profound urgency of creation infuses all of Prokofiev’s music, whether he’s producing an album of electronica, remixing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 or writing music for symphony orchestra.

“I believe a really important part of classical music is to connect with the rhythms and the culture of our time,” Prokofiev told me. “We don’t need to mimic or try and pastiche, but there’s energy, there’s rhythms, there’s textures that I really enjoy and they come into my classical work.”

Best known for his background in electronic music — including hip-hop, grime and funk — Prokofiev’s approach to composition blends the ritual of the nightclub with the language of the concert hall. That he happens to be the grandson of one of the 20th century’s preeminent composers, Sergey Prokofiev, seems inconsequential beside the dizzying array of styles that he gracefully moves between every day.

His divergent influences make Prokofiev a perfect fit for a music director and an orchestra who are eagerly exploring the boundaries of genre. In 2014 Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot commissioned Prokofiev to write a tribute to Seattle hip-hop legend Sir Mix-a-Lot as part of the Symphony’s Sonic Evolution series. That piece, Dial 1-900 Mix-a-Lot, shared the stage with Prokofiev’s arrangements of music by Sir Mix-a-Lot. His arrangements subsequently went viral after the Symphony shared the concert videos on YouTube.

“I was particularly impressed with how the orchestra dealt with hip-hop. The tuba player managed to get the dirtiest tuba notes I’ve ever heard, he totally got it,” said Prokofiev. “The piece was inspired by a hip-hop artist and everyone in the orchestra got it, they knew hip-hop. Although they were classical musicians, they totally embraced it. Not every orchestra will do that.”

After working with Morlot and the Seattle Symphony in 2014, Prokofiev told me that he was eager to explore a different side of the orchestra in his latest composition.

“I’ve seen [the Seattle Symphony] perform music by Dutilleux and Debussy. I’ve seen that Ludovic Morlot has really focused on this incredibly magical, impressionistic sound,” said Prokofiev in our conversation. “Obviously my last piece didn’t really touch on that, so I was really interested to explore the subtly of tone and texture that the orchestra can produce.”

His latest commission, When the City Rules, will receive its world premiere during concerts with Music Director Ludovic Morlot on September 22, 24 & 25. The commission is sponsored by Dale Chihuly and Norman Sandler in honor of their wives, Leslie Jackson Chihuly and Elisabeth Beers-Sandler.

Visitors to Benaroya Hall will be familiar with Dale Chihuly’s work, which includes the two chandeliers hanging in the Boeing Gallery. Norman Sandler, an architect, has designed homes and commercial spaces across Seattle, the Country and Hawaii.  He is the designer of the Litvak Contemporary Art Gallery in Tel Aviv, Israel.

“These two amazing women have supported our artistry for decades. Dale and I wanted to find a special way to honor their love, companionship and support,” said Sandler. “Our lives have centered around bringing new works of art into the world. We wanted to honor them through a new artistic expression.”

Don’t miss Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony performing Gabriel Prokofiev’s latest work on September 22, 24 & 25!

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Posted on August 11, 2016

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