Review: Young Musicians Foundation’s mash-up of Kanye West and Beethoven

Posted on: April 21, 2016

“More than 1,000 hip-hop fans, some wearing Kanye West T-shirts, descended on the Aratani Theatre,” writes Mark Swed in Wednesday’s (4/20) Los Angeles Times. They were joining “a queue for free tickets to the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra’s Beethoven concert. Make that Yeethoven, short for ‘Yeezus’ (West’s 2013 album) and Beethoven…. The Debut Orchestra [a training ensemble] happens to boast among its alumni Andre Previn and Michael Tilson Thomas…. The 26-year-old Juilliard-trained YMF music director Yuga Cohler is … a self-proclaimed hip-hop fan since childhood who does not see that and Beethoven as worlds in opposition. [Composer] Stephen Feigenbaum served as ‘Yeethoven’ arranger and co-curator. Six Beethoven scores were paired with songs from ‘Yeezus.’ … Introducing the pairings, Feigenbaum noted the chaotic, over-the-top nature of Beethoven’s ‘Egmont’ Overture and West’s ‘New Slaves.’ … Dissimilarities could be more striking than similarities…. ‘Egmont’ and ‘New Slaves’ are, each in its own way, transgressive arguments for freedom.… All but two of the pairs were mash-ups. Beethoven seldom upgraded West, rather West infected Beethoven with contemporary funk and spunk.… Cohler conducted with surety. The orchestra, though looking a little dazed in these surroundings, played with a joyful sense of making a history.”

Posted April 21, 2016