VAN: IS THERE ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU THINK, “NO WAY, WE CAN’T DO THAT”?:
JC: You definitely get things in pieces that are not physically possible: accidents of composition, where you can’t physically reach that far. Although even then sometimes we try to figure out other ways. Recently I find myself using my chin a lot, to play double stops.
-Jeffrey Arlo Brown, VAN MAGAZINE 4/13/17
The soloist for the Elgar concerto, Jay Campbell, was quite a gift to Harada. Campbell is among the most exciting young cellists in the world, and he’s already made significant recordings, both as a soloist and as a member of the JACK Quartet. His crystalline tone on the concerto was a marvel in itself, and he wandered through the long solo passages with a cerebral intensity.
-Jack Walton, SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE 4/18/17
JOHN ZORN: ‘HEN TO PAN’ Jay Campbell, cello; Stephen Gosling, piano; Michael Nicolas, cello; Chris Otto, violin; Tyshawn Sorey, drums (Tzadik). Mr. Campbell, a young champion of new music, is the one constant in this feverishly joyful recording of recent Zorn chamber works, including three versions of the frenetic “Ouroboros,” the piano trio “The Aristos” and “Occam’s Razor” for cello and piano.
-Zachary Woolfe, NEW YORK TIMES 12/10/15
Throughout the adventurous program he played on Sunday night at Weill Recital Hall, it was clear that the prodigious 26-year-old cellist Jay Campbell performs music of our time not out of obligation but because it excites him so much.
A student at the Juilliard School, Mr. Campbell was appearing as the latest winner of the school’s Leo B. Ruiz Memorial Recital Award. He could have chosen to demonstrate the rich colors he elicits from his instrument by performing Debussy’s Cello Sonata, or shown a probing grasp of structure with a Beethoven work. Instead, Mr. Campbell brought those qualities and more to performances of five challenging new and recent works.
He began with a compelling account of Elliott Carter’s “Figment I” from 1994, the oldest piece on the program. At first this seven-minute work sounds like a series of separate musical gestures: short squiggly figures; fragments of languid melodic lines; bursts of pizzicato wildness; skittish filigree. As played by Mr. Campbell with complete command and cool control, the music seemed an episodic yet tautly dramatic narrative. For such a slight-framed young man, Mr. Campbell has a robust sound, though the delicacy in his playing was just as captivating.
He was then joined by the brilliant pianist Conor Hanick, a Juilliard graduate and new-music champion, for David Fulmer’s “Original Wood,” composed this year. This nearly 10-minute, single-movement work alternates stretches of lacy writing for both instruments with bursts of pointillist passagework and intricate crisscrossing lines.
Mr. Campbell gave the premiere of Jason Eckardt’s “Practical Alchemy” for solo cello. The composer describes the piece, which nods to medieval experiments with alchemy, as going through metastatic processes that alter the properties of its materials. It begins with short, minimal gestures — plucked tones, rustling sounds, barely audible sustained tones, bow scrapes — separated by daring silences. Slowly, the gestures coalesce into segments, phrases and, eventually, near-frenzied episodes. Mr. Campbell played it commandingly, especially the silences.
Matthias Pintscher’s atmospheric, free-flowing “Janusgesicht” (2001) for viola and cello was another work that evolves in sketchy spurts and gestures, played vibrantly by Mr. Campbell and Mr. Fulmer, on viola. In a theatrical, and also amusing, touch, they performed the piece sitting back to back on a single piano bench.
After all these episodic compositions it was gratifying to end with Charles Wuorinen’s “An Orbicle of Jasp” (1999), a pulsing, restless work for cello and piano, rather reminiscent of Schoenberg’s Neo-Classical 12-tone pieces, but with a feisty American energy, especially as played by Mr. Campbell and Mr. Hanick.
There was a big ovation at the end but no encores, the right choice by Mr. Campbell after such an absorbing program.
-Anthony Tommasini, NEW YORK TIMES 12/7/15
"The brilliant young cellist Jay Campbell, who is a student at New York's Juilliard School of Music, gave an impressive recital at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall on Dec. 5.
Impressive, not only because was it all contemporary music ("all local-grown," he calls it), eschewing the customary Bach and Beethoven so common in cello recitals, but the near-capacity audience, too, was clearly interested in hearing a new repertoire.
Campbell, only in his mid-20s, has developed an enthusiastic following among his colleagues and audiences who have recently witnessed his performances of the Lutoslawski and Ligeti cello concertos at venues in New York, solo engagements in major halls around the world and his active collaborations with composers like John Zorn, Matthias Pintscher, Pierre Boulez, John Adams, Kaija Saariaho and more. The New York Times has already pronounced him "electrifying" -- and he's still in school.
And electrifying he is, with his instinctive passion for bringing new music into the spotlight with organic flair and intuitive musicality. Campbell's program, spare and specific, featured five short but challenging pieces (and some were played from memory) written between 1994 and 2015 by Elliott Carter, Matthias Pintscher, Charles Wourinen, David Fulmer and Jason Eckardt -- this last one enjoyed a world premiere of his "Practical Alchemy."
Campbell's program notes explained that all these composers share one thing: They were all transplants to New York by choice, one of the fundamental factors that have shaped that city. Though these five have geography in common, the essence of the program selections represents the way Campbell feels as the younger generation follows in the footsteps of its musical elders, particularly those of the pioneering New York cellist Fred Sherry.
-Alexandra Ivanoff, TODAY'S ZAMAN, 12/11/15
One of the Crowden School's many distinguished alumni, cellist Jay Campbell (Class of 2003), has just added to his trophies in a big way. A former student of Milly Rosner, Campbell, 26, is already a multiple award- and grant-winner, having performed in Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Kultur und Kongresszentrum-Luzern, and the Aspen Music Festival.
This week, Campbell won second place in the 2015 Walter W. Naumburg Foundation International Cello Competition, sharing it with Brannon Cho from Northwestern University. Lev Sivkov, from Siberia, took the $15,000 first prize.
The prominent San Francisco cellist, Bonnie Hampton, one of the judges at the Naumburg, called Crowden Executive Director Doris Fukawa with the news, telling her that "Jay plays contemporary music beautifully, and is a very unusual player. It was a pleasure to phone up Crowden with the good news!"
More than a hundred cellists participated in the initial worldwide competition, the field narrowing to 60, then to 12, and then there were five finalists. The jury consisted of Nicholas Mann, David Geber, Natasha Brofsky, Thomas Demenga, Norman Fischer, Marta Casals Istomin, Michael Kannen, Richard Wernick, and Philadelphia Orchestra principal cellist Hai-Ye Ni, herself the product of San Anselmo's San Domenico School, the S.F. Conservatory of Music, and S.F. Symphony Youth Orchestra.
Campbell has long been dedicated top contemporary music - he made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 2013 performing the music of Tan Dun. He has collaborated with an array of artists ranging from composers including Elliott Carter, Pierre Boulez, Kaija Saariaho, and John Adams, to saxophonist Steve Coleman, to members of Radiohead and Einstürzende Neubauten.
His close association with John Zorn has resulted in over half a dozen new works for cello, and his article on the music of Pierre Boulez was recently published in Arcana VII. Hen to Pan, a feature disc with all new works written for him by Zorn, was released this year 2015.
Recent and upcoming highlights of his performance schedule include appearances at the Lucerne, Marlboro, Chamber Music Northwest, Moab, DITTO, and Heidelberger-Fruhling festivals; two new solo discs on the CAG and Tzadik labels; appearances at Carnegie Hall, National Gallery, Krannert Center, Mondavi Center, the Kennedy Center; and the premieres of new works written for Jay by John Zorn, Jason Eckardt, and David Fulmer.
Campbell began playing the cello at the age of 8 at the Crowden School; he is currently an Artist Diploma candidate at the Juilliard School with Fred Sherry. Crowden School Director oif Music Eugene Sor commented on his Naumburg performance:
Jay is a tremendously versatile cellist who is equally adept at interpreting the most difficult contemporary pieces as he is at spinning the most exquisite phrase in a Bach Suite or Brahms sonata. He was a technical marvel in his days at Crowden, able at an early age to play tremendously challenging works such as Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concertante and Barber's Cello Concerto.
His technical prowess combined with his sensitivity and ability to convey an enormous range of characters and colors have made Jay a compelling musician that people really must hear. All of us at Crowden are so proud of him.
-Janos Gereben, SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE, 10/22/15
"Any regrets about abandoning the salubrious air and spring sunshine on Sunday were instantly dispelled by the musical electricity inside the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre. During the concert by two brilliant young musicians — cellist Jay Campbell and pianist Conor Hanick, presented by Washington Performing Arts — a sparking galvanic arc between cello and piano was all but visible.
The duo debuted a new work, co-commissioned by Washington Performing Arts and written for Campbell and Hanick by the composer, violinist and conductor David Fulmer. Fulmer will be 34 this year and has taught at Columbia University since 2009. His aural sensibilities have something like the acuity of a Boulez or a Bartók, and his new piece, “Original Wood,” made extraordinary demands, musically and technically, on the players. Fortunately, Campbell and Hanick are specialists in new music. Their energy, intelligence and imagination created an atmosphere in this 10-minute piece that kept the audience spellbound.
In fact, from the first sounds of Debussy’s late masterpiece, the 1915 Cello Sonata that opened the program, Campbell seized the audience’s attention in a grip that never let go. He and Hanick suggest a conversation in such complete sympathy and accord that they could almost complete each other’s sentences. Debussy’s second movement, “Serenade,” was a blend of stealth and whimsy, as though there was a lot of tiptoeing around in the garden before any real serenading could get underway. The finale took off in flight so exhilarating you forgot to keep an eye on the altimeter. Actually, once Campbell wraps himself around the cello, you’re willing to follow him anywhere.
That rich, full-throated cello sound had its greatest play in a surprising piece. Elliott Carter, whose death in 2012 at age 103 left American music a poorer place, is perhaps best known for music of extraordinary density and rhythmic complexity. “Elegy,” on the other hand, written when Carter was just 31, is straightforward and transparent almost to the point of delicacy. The hushed intimacy of Campbell and Hanick’s performance was gentle, poignant and deeply moving.
Brahms’s Second Sonata, Op. 99, had an appropriate symphonic heft and seriousness, its windswept, craggy peaks given their full scope. But more remarkable was the naturalness with which Campbell and Hanick narrated Brahms’s heroic drama, lending it cohesion and emotional credibility.
It is hard to characterize Campbell’s sound at the instrument, since it seems so perfectly tailored to each piece he plays. His athletic approach has nothing to do with display but stems from an effort to imbue every note with expression. The hand-in-glove ensemble he achieves in collaboration with Hanick is nothing short of breathtaking. Stravinsky’s witty, urbane “Suite Italienne” wrapped up their richly rewarding concert."
-Patrick Rucker, WASHINGTON POST 4/13/15
“The young cellist Jay Campbell gave what the composer [Kryzystof Penderecki] described afterwards as “I think the greatest performance of this piece [Capriccio per Sigfried Palm].” It well may have been. The notation holds no challenges to Campbell’s technique and, notably, Campbell understood why he was going from note to note, technique to technique. The music made sense to him, and he made it sound almost easy.”
-George Grella, NEW YORK CLASSICAL REVIEW 10/27/13
“...its textures whisper and quiver, with silences and faint notes, rendered almost orthographic by Mr. Campbell’s clarity and specificity, alternating with frenetic dissolution.”
-Zachary Wolfe, NEW YORK TIMES, 10/4/2013
“Jay Campbell, an adventurous cellist and an undergraduate at the Juilliard School [...] performed the solo part [of Chris Rogerson’s cello concerto That Blue Repair] with subtle power and rich tone.”
-Zachary Wolfe, NEW YORK TIMES, 3/12/2012
“Campbell gave the opening movement [of Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne] a deep sense of poignancy. It was performed without affectation, but never coldly. The following movements revealed Campbell’s artistry at mixing emotion with clarity.”
-Edward Ortiz, SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE, 2/16/14
“Cellist Jay Campbell had a spectacular moment in Lesson 2 [of Fausto Romitelli’s Professor Bad Trip] when he put down his acoustic instrument, took up an electric cello and made like Jimi Hendrix.” -Mark Swed, LOS ANGELES TIMES 1/1/2011
“[The concert] reached a boiling point very quickly with a dazzling reading of [Lutoslawski’s] Concerto for Cello and Orchestra. The opening is for the cello alone, almost as if the composer had placed a cadenza at the very beginning, and soloist Jay Campbell had the audience riveted from the first note. [...] And Mr. Campbell—playing the piece from memory—seemed completely inside the composer’s hairpin turns and sharp edges. It was an unusually confident, even rapturous performance, with this astonishing cellist finding some humor in the composer’s sighing glissandi. At the conclusion, the cheers were legion, and about half the audience gave him a standing ovation; I don’t expect to hear this piece done as well for a very long time.”
-Bruce Hodges, SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL, 1/31/2011