With his immense and generous collaborative energy, Hussain's Perspectives will display several facets of his extraordinary career. "I conceived of this series as moving from the traditional into the new," Hussain observes, "from where I've begun to where I'm heading."
With this in mind, Hussain begins his musical exploration in a very traditional North Indian classical context, performing with santoor (hammered dulcimer) master Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. Like his father: percussionist Ustad Alla Rakha: Hussain has innovated the traditional role of the tabla as musical accompaniment, turning performances with other instruments into a dialogue between peers.
Beyond the music of his homeland, however, Hussain has dedicated himself to forging new artistic paths with musicians rooted in other musical genres, from his groundbreaking trio Shakti with guitarist John McLaughlin and violinist L. Shankar, to George Harrison and Pharoah Sanders.
As his Perspectives residency progresses, Hussain experiments with Americana alongside banjo legend Béla Fleck and bassist Edgar Meyer. "Such collaborations are about hearts and minds meeting and thinking as one, and connecting on more levels than just musically. This work with Béla and Edgar marks a new crossroad for me."
"I grew up with all kinds of music," says Hussain. "When I was a kid, my father would bring home cassettes of different styles he'd heard all over the world on his tours, so I listened to everything from Duke Ellington to The Doors to Jefferson Starship. Listening to them, I'd imagine myself making music with all types of artists.
Daniel Barenboim is the first artist to return for a second Perspectives. With his incredible array of professional interests and activities: as conductor, soloist, chamber musician, and recitalist, as well as author, lecturer, and peace activist: he is one of the most intellectually engaging and imaginative forces in classical music. Thanks to his curating, Carnegie Hall will be drenched in Mahler with the complete symphonies performed by the Staatskapelle Berlin May 6 _17.
"I have always thought about composers in cycle form," he points out, "even when I was as young as 17 and did a complete cycle of the Beethoven sonatas. I've always been curious about the whole breadth of a composer's output, not just the most popular two or three pieces."
The idea for this current Mahler cycle originated with the other august conductor who will share the podium responsibilities: Pierre Boulez. "He also thinks very much in cyclical forms," says Barenboim. "I said to him, 'I'd never do a Mahler cycle by myself, but would you consider sharing one?'"
"Presenting all of these in such a compact period of time is of course most strenuous on an orchestra," Barenboim admits, "but it creates the most amazing journey for all concerned, both the musicians and the audience."
In the midst of this Mahlerian sweep, Barenboim interjects an evening of music by another composer with whom he has an impassioned connection: Elliott Carter, who celebrated his 100th birthday at Carnegie Hall this past December in a concert that marked the start of Barenboim's residency. On May 11, Barenboim goes not to the podium, but to the piano, joining members of the Staatskapelle for an all- Carter evening.
"It wasn't a programming juxtaposition made to prove a point," says Barenboim. "But Elliott Carter is a composer who, especially in the last 20 years or so, has distilled complexity down to its very essence. If Mahler had also lived to be 100," the conductor laughs, "perhaps he would have had the time to similarly distill his ideas!"
Zakir Hussain's Perspectives is April 19 _29, including performances by Shivkumar Sharma, Béla Fleck, and Edgar Meyer; Daniel Barenboim's Perspectives, including the Mahler symphonies in sequence, continues May 6 _17.
For further details, visit Carnegie Hall.
Anastasia Tsioulcas is the North America section editor for Gramophone.