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Biographies: Osvaldo Golijov and Todd Palmer


document Yiddishbuk | document Prayers of Isaac the Blind | document Echoes of Old Worlds, Portents of New | Biographies


Osvaldo Golijov
Born in 1960, Osvaldo Golijov was raised in an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata, Argentina, a provincial capital of half a million people about fifty kilometers from Buenos Aires. Born to a piano teacher mother and physician father, Golijov was raised surrounded in chamber classical music, Jewish liturgical and klezmer music, and the new tango of Astor Piazzolla. He studied piano at the local conservatory and studied composition privately with Gerardo Gandini, subsequently moving in 1983 to Israel, where he studied with Mark Kopytman at the Rubin Academy of Jerusalem and immersed himself in the colliding musical traditions of that city. 

Upon moving in the United States in 1986, Golijov earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with George Crumb. In 1990, as a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, Golijov received Tanglewood’s Fromm Commission, resulting in “Yiddishbbuk,” which was premiered by the St. Lawrence String Quartet during Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music in July 1992. Working together with the St. Lawrence String Quartet was a turning point in Golijov’s musical life, as the SLSQ was the first group of players to dive into Golijov’s volatile and label-defying musical world and project it in its true, full form. In June 2002, EMI released “Yiddishbbuk,” a CD of Golijov’s chamber music, celebrating 10 years of collaboration with the SLSQ, featuring Todd Palmer, Mark Dresser, Tara O’Connor, and the Ying Quartet.  The CD was nominated for two Grammy Awards. 

While at Tanglewood, Golijov became personally acquainted with the Kronos Quartet. This relationship, now a decade old, has become a central one to Golijov. One of his works, “K’vakarat,” was recorded later for Kronos and cantor Misha Alexandrovich. In 1997, Kronos and clarinetist David Krakauer recorded Golijov’s Klezmer-accented “The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind.” Although “Dreams and Prayers” was commissioned by the Cleveland Quartet, who premiered and toured it with clarinetist Giora Feidman, that ensemble disbanded before they had a chance to record it. The Kronos CD of “Dreams and Prayers” became what constitutes a bestseller in the classical world. Golijov has collaborated on about 30 works with the Kronos Quartet, including a series of arrangements of music from all over the world. Eight of them appear in the CD “Caravan” and seven arrangements and one composition appear in “Nuevo” (nominated for a Grammy Award) both on the Nonesuch label. The collaborations with the Kronos Quartet also allowed Golijov to work with artists such as the gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks, who participated in the recording of Golijov’s soundtrack for Sally Potter’s film “The Man Who Cried” (starring Johnny Depp and Cate Blanchett), as well as the Mexican Rock Band Cafe Tacuba, tablas virtuoso Zakir Husssain, and legendary Argentine musician and producer Gustavo Santaolalla. 

In 2000, the premiere of Golijov’s “St. Mark Passion” took the music world by storm. It was commissioned by Helmuth Rilling for the European Music festival to commemorate the 250th anniversary of J. S. Bach’s death. The piece featured the Schola Cantorum of Caracas, with the Orquesta La Pasion (especially assembled for this work by Golijov), together with percussionist Mikael Ringquist, all conducted by Maria Guinand. The Passion integrates the multiple manifestations of the Christian faith in Latin America (and Golijov’s own Jewish roots) in a musical universe, which critics and audiences in Europe and America alike praised for encompassing popular and classical idioms, acknowledging the past, and opening the door to a fruitful and communicative musical future.  The Passion was given its U.S. Premiere by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and in Fall 2002, completed a North American tour which includes the premiere in New York and Los Angeles.  The CD of the premiere of this work, on the Hanssler Classic label, received a Grammy nomination in 2002. 

Golijov has received numerous commissions, including those from the composer Hans Werner Henze on behalf of the city of Munich; the Spoleto USA Festival; New York’s Lincoln Center; the Schleswig Holstein Music and Oregon Bach festivals, and the Boston Symphony. In addition, Golijov has been composer-in-residence at Merkin Hall in New York, the Spoleto USA Festival (1998 and 2002) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Music Alive series (2001-02). He is currently an Associate Professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he has taught since 1991; is on the faculties of the Boston Conservatory and the Tanglewood Music Center; and has been Composer-in-Residence for Marlboro Music, Ravinia, and the Cape and Islands festivals. 

Todd Palmer
Since winning the 1990 Young Concert Artist International Auditions, Todd Palmer has appeared as recitalist, concerto soloist and clinician at major performing arts centers and universities throughout the US, winning universal acclaim for his technical brilliance and unerring musicianship. An ebulliant stage presence, he is frequently praised for his engaging and inspirational outreach programs for young audiences. Outside the US, he has performed widely in Europe, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the Caribbean and Japan.

Todd Palmer is in great demand as a chamber musician and participates regularly at music festivals across the US and Canada, including Spoleto USA, the Vancouver Chamber Music Festival, the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, and Tanglewood, where he received the Leonard Bernstein Fellowship. He has also been clarinetist of choice in Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock with sopranos Kathleen Battle, Renée Fleming, Roberta Peters, and Dawn Upshaw. He has enjoyed a close association with Osvaldo Golijov since 1997 and was chief editor in preparing Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind for publication. He has also worked directly with composers such as Richard Rodney Bennett, John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Oliver Knussen, Ned Rorem and Ricky Ian Gordon, who composed the monodrama Orpheus and Euridice for him.