Monday, March 7, 2016

Uusinta Ensemble: JiB's 'newest' resident ensemble

It's hard to believe, but June in Buffalo is already only three months away!  We've been hard at work planning for the event, and are excited about all the great music that will be made.  This week, we begin our series of profiles on the composers, ensembles, and artists who will be in residency at this year's festival.  We begin with a newcomer to JiB, Helsinki's Uusinta Ensemble.

Uusinta performs at 2014 MATA Festival
Uusinta was founded by composer Osmo Tapio Räihälä in 1998, and during their early years, when most of the members were themselves composers, the ensemble specialized in premiering new works by Finnish and Nordic composers.  More recently, the ensemble's repertoire has expanded to include works by composers from around the world, and they have oriented themselves around a prime mission to "bring the most exciting composers from all countries to its concerts in Helsinki and abroad."  Over the past two decades, the ensemble has found itself at a number of highly-regarded festivals and in venues around the world, including Berlin (Ohrenstrand), Paris (Theatre Dunois), Vienna (Arnold Schönberg Center), Valencia (Mostra Sonora), Oslo (Nordic Music Days), and Tallinn (Estonian Music Days).

In particular, Uusinta's performance at the 2014 MATA Festival earned them high praise, with the New York Times remarking on their versatility and virtuosity, and describing their performance as containing "ample gravity and dignity," while being marked by an "athletic brio" and a "playful ease and anything-goes attitude."  A concert at Helsinki's Musica Nova Festival with Nicholas Hodges and Magnus Lindberg prompted the Financial Times to applaud Uusinta's combination of "waves of energy" and 'fragility,' as well as to remark on the evocative textures of "shivering strings, rustling percussion and slithering woodwinds" in their performance of Toshio Hosokawa's Poe monodrama, The Raven.

Uusinta director, Ville Raasakka
Uusinta's commitment to realizing new works is an integral part of their DNA.  Formed by composers for composers, the group has premiered over 100 new works, and has collaborated with some of the most internationally-recognized composers currently active, including Beat Furrer, Chaya Czernowin, Mark Andre, Michel van der Aa, Hèctor Parra, and fellow Finnish artist (and recent visitor to the Center) Kaija Saariaho. In 2011, Uusinta initiated the contemporary concert series, Klang, which focuses on music composed after 2000.  The most recent Klang performance featured two premieres Uusinta commissions by composers Oscar Bianchi and Max Savikangas.  In 2000, the ensemble started its own publishing house, Uusinta Publishing Company, to publish new works by Finnish composers.  Over the past sixteen years, they have published works by artists such as Ralf Gothóni, Markus Fagerudd, and friend-of-the-Center, Sebastian Fagerlund.  During their tenth season as an ensemble, Uusinta was part of the EU's Re:New project, which promoted European contemporary music in eleven countries.  Uusinta, whose name can translate as both "replay" or "newest", was well-suited for such a project, as they have devoted themselves to producing, and reproducing the most exciting new works by established and emerging composers alike.  Under the artistic direction of composer Ville Raasakka, the ensemble has continued to stay true to this mission.

It is for this reason that we are so excited to welcome Uusinta to the festival this year.  A group so devoted to the realization of new works by young composers will fit right in with the mission of the festival, and we're looking forward to hearing them play and 'replay' the 'newest' music this summer in Buffalo.