eighth blackbird takes Jennifer Higdon’s On a Wire concerto on tour with Toronto Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and more

After giving the work its world premiere in Atlanta last season, when “the audience erupted, hollered, stood, smiled, [and] laughed with communal euphoria” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution), eighth blackbird makes Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon’s new concerto On a Wire a staple of its new season; from December to May, the Grammy Award-winning sextet performs the piece with orchestras including the Toronto Symphony under Peter Oundjian and the Cleveland Orchestra with Franz Welser-Möst, in Vermont, Akron, Toronto, Michigan, and Cleveland.

One of the most prolific and frequently performed American composers alive today, Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962) is having a momentous year; in February her Percussion Concerto was awarded the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition and two months later she won a Pulitzer Price for her Violin Concerto; as the New York Times observed, “Higdon’s vivid, attractive works have made her a hot commodity.”

On a Wire was expressly commissioned for eighth blackbird. Higdon explained:

“Having already written two chamber works for this group, I am familiar with their ability to do all sorts of cool things on their instruments, from extended techniques, to complex patterns, to exquisitely controlled lyrical lines. I also admire the pure joy that emanates from their playing, no matter the repertoire.”

eighth blackbird gave the new concerto its world premiere in Atlanta last season, reprising it later in the summer at the Cabrillo Festival, where it impressed the San Francisco Chronicle as an “exuberantly beautiful and inventive group concerto, which left the audience exhilarated.” And as the Mercury News witnessed, the group’s performance was “dispatched with dazzling flair,” making it “hard to imagine another sextet playing it with such energy and precision.”

Now the sextet – described by the Akron Symphony’s Music Director, Christopher Wilkins, as “the most influential chamber ensemble of our time” – makes On a Wire a key component of the coming season, with performances with the Vermont Symphony and Anthony Princiotti in Burlington, VT (Dec 4); the Akron Symphony under Wilkins in Akron, OH (Jan 15); the Toronto Symphony and its Music Director, Peter Oundjian, in Toronto, ON (March 10); the West Michigan Symphony and Scott Speck in Muskegon, MI (April 15-16), and the Cleveland Orchestra under Music Director Franz Welser-Möst in Cleveland, OH (May 27).

On a Wire marks Higdon’s first concerto for eighth blackbird, but it is not the first time they have collaborated: her Zaka and Zango Bandango, both written for the group in 2003, are eighth blackbird staples. strange imaginary animals, the album that won the sextet two Grammy Awards, features the premiere recording of Zaka, which was also nominated for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. The group’s premiere performance of On a Wire with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and conductor Robert Spano was recorded for a future CD, due for release in the coming year.

A list of eighth blackbird’s upcoming performances of On a Wire follows below, and much additional information is available at the group’s web site: http://www.eighthblackbird.com/projects/concerto/ .

eighth blackbird’s 2010-11 performances of On a Wire:

Dec 4, 2010

Burlington, VT

Vermont Symphony Orchestra / Anthony Princiotti

(WEBER: Overture to Euryanthe)


(SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2)

Flynn Center

Jan 15, 2011

Akron, OH

Akron Symphony Orchestra / Christopher Wilkins

(VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: The Lark Ascending, with Alan Bodman, violin)

(SUNG: The Phoenix Rising)

(STRAVINSKY: The Firebird Suite)

(GANDOLFI: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, I & II)


March 10, 2011

Toronto, Canada

Toronto Symphony Orchestra / Peter Oundjian

(JOHN ADAMS: Tromba Lontana)

JENNIFER HIGDON: On a Wire (Canadian premiere)

(R. MURRAY SCHAFER: Symphony No. 1)

April 15 & 16, 2011

Muskegon, MI

West Michigan Symphony / Scott Speck

(Rossini: Overture to The Thieving Magpie)


(Beethoven: Symphony No. 7)

May 27, 2011

Cleveland, OH

Cleveland Orchestra / Franz Welser-Möst

(JOHN ADAMS: Doctor Atomic Symphony)

(JÖRG WIDMANN: Flute Concerto with Joshua Smith)



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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / neufutur.com since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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