Festival Review: Eighth Blackbird

Festival Review: Eighth Blackbird

The group has been together since 1996, with very few personnel changes and has won four Grammy awards.


Presented by Musica Viva
Reviewed 9 March 2017

While I enjoy classical music I can’t say I’m very knowledable about modern classics, so I was intrigued by the Adelaide Festival program’s description of  Eighth Blackbird as ‘[t]he closest thing classical music has to a rock band’ http://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/2017/EighthBlackbird .

The group has been together since 1996, with very few personnel changes and has won four Grammy awards. Last night the audience was thrilled by the playing of Nathalie Joachim (flutes), Adam Marks (piano), Matthew Duvall (percussion), Michael J Maccaferri (clarinets), Nicholas Photinos (cello) and Yvonne Lam (violin) as they presented a new (to me) adventurous and exciting vision of what chamber music can be.

Eighth Blackbird are well known for debuting and commissioning new works. I enjoyed the, at times literal, foot stamping beat of the Murder Ballads  by Bryce Dessner who felt that great tradition of American folk music was exactly what ‘a great American new-music ensemble’ needed (page 9 Program). In spite of the grisly theme, I was sure some of the murders had escaped hanging from the upbeat endings – a consummate interpretation of contrasting light and dark.

In Lobster Tales and Turtle Soup the audience was treated to a fabulous drum solo from Matthew Duvall who demonstrated his wizardry on a wide range of percussion. Written by Australian composer Holly Harrison, commissioned by Musica Viva, the music had its world premier on the group’s Australian tour. The composer has said the weaving together of different musical styles, including jazz, hip-hop and funk, in the music reflects the composite animals – the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon – the main characters in chapters nine and ten of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which inspired the piece.

It seems a great shame to me that such a group of exciting and brilliant, classically trained musicians performing such wonderfully fresh music, written by innovative composers, gave only one performance. I would have loved to be able to encourage friends and family to also enjoy a  fabulous evening of modern classical music.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

One Night Only – season ended





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