Reviewed by Anthony Harkin
Contemporary classical music, much maligned as a saleable commodity, received a huge shot in the arm from a performance by 'Eighth Blackbird.' Often derided as "cerebral " music, this ensemble display not only virtuosic technique but more importantly, a passionate understanding of the compositions and a telepathic connection between the players.
Orchestrations of "Americana" mostly lay at the legacy of Aaron Copland as did "Murder Ballades" by Bryce Dresner. Contemporary is a misnomer in this instance as the original melodies bordered on pastiche, though the ensemble raised it to an emotional level.
Holly Harrison's 'Lobster Tales' and 'Turtle Soup' in its world premiere, could also be heard as "Americana" though with a considerably less Anglo/Celtic bent. In the after Q and A, Holly Harrison said that, being a drummer herself, she likes the percussion "upfront." Fine it's her composition, but at times the din made it difficult to decipher the strings and flute.
The performance made the comradarie of the ensemble plain to see. Congratulations to Holly Harrison and expect to hear more from her.
Nico Muhly's 'Doublespeak' and Timo Andres 'Checkered Shade' were executed with absolute precision and both tour de forces of dynamics and tension.
The highlight of the performance to me was Ted Hearne's 'By-By Huey' colour and shade, timbral variations and a heart-breaking narrative were cooked to perfection.
Eighth Blackbird go to lengths to bring new music to light and Sydney is lucky to have them visit us semi-regularly. Musica Viva should be noted for commissioning Holly Harrison's 'Lobster Tales' and ' Turtle Soup.'
Flute: Nathalie Joachim
Clarinets: Michael J Maccaferri
Violin & Viola: Yvonne Lam
Cello: Nicholas Photinos
Piano: Adam Marks