The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will be swaying to two different beats this weekend. There's the Baroque, with a performance of the complete Bach Brandenburg Concertos at Heinz Hall. And then there's the techno, with an innovative event taking place in a Strip District club.
About a third of the orchestra musicians will go to Static, a nightclub on Smallman Street in the Strip, to perform in "Mercury Soul," a combination of sorts of classical music and electronica that is the brainchild of composer Mason Bates and some colleagues.
"We are trying to demonstrate that classical music can work in different venues," says the PSO composer-of-the-year. And also in different moods: "It should feel as fun as the best party."
The concept -- which has been performed in clubs in San Francisco, Miami and Chicago -- is of alternating contemporary classical music led by conductor with techno spun by a DJ, adapted to whatever space it is in. "It is a roaming audience, free to come and go, with interludes that lock up with the pieces," says Mr. Bates.
Those pieces include John Adams' "John's Book of Alleged Dances," Xenakis' "Okho," Stravinsky's Concertino for Twelve Instruments, Corligiano's "Stomp" and a new work by Mr. Bates. These will be conducted by Joshua Gersen with lighting design by Anne Patterson assisted by Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama. There will be "architecturally mapped projections, live performance video with real-time effects and evocative programmed lighting," according to the PSO.
Mr. Bates says it more casually: "It's a DJ'd party with electronic dance music that is visited by a SWAT team of classical musicians."
At Heinz Hall, harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell has the rough task of conducting and performing in all six of Bach's beautiful Brandenburg Concertos in one night!
The doyen of the harpsichord, Gustav Leonhardt, accepted Ms. Sorrell as one of only four students he taught each year and she soaked up the lessons and artistry. She has been the head of the period instrument group Apollo's Fire for years, so she can handle it.