Eighth Blackbird

May 20, 2017

ABOUT EIGHTH BLACKBIRD

Eighth Blackbird is “one of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet” (Chicago Tribune). Launched by six entrepreneurial Oberlin Conservatory undergraduates in 1996, this Chicago-based super-group has earned its status as “a brand-name…defined by adventure, vibrancy, and quality….known for performing from memory, employing choreography and collaborations with theater artists, lighting designers, and even puppetry artists” (Detroit Free Press).

Eighth Blackbird first gained wide recognition in 1998 as winners of the Concert Artists Guild Competition. Over the following two decades, Eighth Blackbird has commissioned and premiered hundreds of works by composers such as David Lang, Steven Mackey, Missy Mazzoli, and Steve Reich, whose Double Sextet went on to win the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. A long-term relationship with Chicago’s Cedille Records has produced seven acclaimed recordings and four Grammy Awards for Best Small Ensemble/Chamber Music Performance, most recently in 2016 for Filament. Hand Eye, their most recent recording released in March 2016 and featuring the music of composer collective Sleeping Giant, was hailed as “dazzling” and “vigorously, flawlessly performed” (WQXR).

Eighth Blackbird’s mission—to move music forward through innovative performance, advocate for new music by living composers, and create a legacy of guiding an emerging generation of musicians —extends beyond recording and touring to curation and education. The ensemble served as Music Director of the 2009 Ojai Music Festival has held residencies at the Curtis Institute of Music and at the University of Chicago, and holds an ongoing Ensemble-in-Residence position at the University of Richmond. The 2015-16 season featured a pioneering residency at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art: a living installation with open rehearsals, performances, guest artists, and public talks. Eighth Blackbird launches its most ambitious educational venture yet in June 2017: The Blackbird Creative Lab, an annual tuition-free two-week intensive for emerging artists at the Besant Hill School in Ojai, California.

Eighth Blackbird’s members hail from the Great Lakes, Keystone, Golden, Empire and Bay states. The name “Eighth Blackbird” derives from the eighth stanza of Wallace Stevens’s evocative, imagistic poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird: “I know noble accents / And lucid, inescapable rhythms; / But I know, too, / That the blackbird is involved / In what I know.”

Eighth Blackbird is managed by David Lieberman Artists.

The Lysander Piano Trio and clarinetist Charles Neidich come together for a program by European composers–Bartok (Hungary), Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Italy), Hindemith (Germany), and Ben-Haim (Germany)–who were displaced due to the rise of Nazism and Fascism in the 1930s and sought refuge outside of Europe, relocating to the United States and Israel.

PROGRAM

Paul Ben-Haim:  Variations on a Hebrew Melody (1939)

Bela Bartók: Contrasts (1938)

INTERMISSION

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco:  Romanzero Con Variazioni from Trio, op. 70 no. 2

Paul Hindemith:  Quartet For Clarinet and Piano Trio (1939)

ABOUT LYSANDER PIANO TRIO

The Lysander Piano Trio, a winner of the Concert Artists Guild Competition, has been praised by the Strad for its “incredible ensemble, passionate playing, articulate and imaginative ideas and a wide palette of colors.” These qualities have made the Trio a standout at other competitions, with top honors at the 2010 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the 2011 Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition (Grand Prize), and the 2011 J. C. Arriaga Chamber Music Competition (First Prize). The Trio’s 2014 debut recording, After a Dream (CAG Records), featuring music by Ravel, Haydn, Schubert, Joaquin Turina, and Moshe Zorman, was acclaimed for its “polished and spirited interpretations” (The New York Times).

The Lysander Piano Trio is proactive in commissioning new works and creating programs that mix the music of today with well-loved masterworks. Their latest commission is Gilad Cohen’s Around the Cauldron, co-commissioned by CAG and set for a world premiere as part of the 2016-17 CAG New York Series at Weill Recital Hall. Other recent Lysander Trio commissions include: Ghostwritten Variations by Venezuelan-American composer Reinaldo Moya, who received a 2015 McKnight Fellowship; Jakub Ciupinski’s The Black Mirror (also co-commissioned by CAG and premiered at Weill Recital Hall); and Four Movements Inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” penned by four pre-teen composers of ComposerCraft from NYC’s Kaufman Music Center and premiered at Merkin Concert Hall in January 2014.

The Lysander Piano Trio was formed at The Juilliard School in 2009 and selected that year to represent Juilliard in a special concert in Mexico City on the occasion of President Joseph Polisi’s visit to Mexico. The Trio has performed in master classes for Alfred Brendel and for Ida and Ani Kavafian at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and it has studied with Ronald Copes of the Juilliard String Quartet, Joseph Kalichstein of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, and Seymour Lipkin. The Lysander Trio takes its name from the character in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

ABOUT CHARLES NEIDICH

Charles Neidich has gained worldwide recognition as one of the most mesmerizing virtuosos on his instrument. With a tone of hypnotic beauty and a dazzling technique, Mr. Neidich has received unanimous accolades from critics and fellow musicians both in the United States and abroad; but it is his musical intelligence in scores as diverse as Mozart and Elliott Carter that have earned for Mr. Neidich a unique place among clarinetists.  In the words of The New Yorker, “He’s an artist of uncommon  merit — a master of his instrument and, beyond that, an interpreter who keeps listeners hanging on each phrase.”

Mr. Neidich commands a repertoire of over 200 solo works, including pieces commissioned or inspired by him, as well as his own transcriptions of vocal and instrumental works. A noted exponent of 20th-century music, he has premiered works by Milton Babbit, Elliott Carter, Edison Denisov, William Schumann, Ralph Shapey, Joan Tower, and other leading contemporary composers. With a growing discography to his credit, Mr. Neidich can be heard on the Chandos, Sony Classical, Sony Vivarte, Deutsche Grammophon, Musicmasters, Pantheon, and Bridge labels. His recorded repertoire ranges from familiar works by Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, and Brahms, to lesser-known compositions by Danzi, Reicha, Rossini, and Hummel, as well as music by Elliott Carter, Gyorgy Kurtag, and other contemporary masters.

A native New Yorker of Russian and Greek descent, Charles Neidich had his first clarinet lessons with his father and his first piano lessons with his mother. Mr. Neidich’s early musical idols were Fritz Kreisler, pianist Artur Schnabel and other violinists and pianists, rather than clarinetists. However, the clarinet won out over time, and he pursued studies with the famed pedagogue Leon Russianoff. Although Mr. Neidich became quite active in music at an early age, he opted against attending a music conservatory in favor of academic studies at Yale University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in Anthropology. In 1975 he became the first American to receive a Fulbright grant for study in the former Soviet Union, and he attended the Moscow Conservatory for three years where his teachers were Boris Dikov and Kirill Vinogradov.

In 1985 Mr. Neidich became the first clarinetist to win the Walter W. Naumburg Competition, which brought him to prominence as a soloist. He then taught at the Eastman School of Music and during that tenure joined the New York Woodwind Quintet, an ensemble with which he still performs. His European honors include a top prize at the 1982 Munich International Competition sponsored by the German television network ARD and the Geneva and Paris International Competitions. Mr. Neidich has achieved recognition as a teacher in addition to his activities as a performer, and currently is a member of the artist faculties of The Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, the Mannes College of Music and Queens College. During the 1994-95 academic year, he was a Visiting Professor at the Sibelius Academy in Finland where he taught, performed and conducted. Mr. Neidich is a long-time member of the renowned chamber ensemble Orpheus.

ABOUT DELFEAYO MARSALIS AND THE UPTOWN JAZZ ORCHESTRA

Delfeayo Marsalis (pronounced Dell FEE Oh) is one of the top trombonists, composers and producers in jazz today. Known for his “technical excellence, inventive mind and frequent touches of humor…” (Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times), he is “…one of the best, most imaginative and musical of the trombonists of his generation.” (Philip Elwood, San Francisco Examiner.) In January 2011, Delfeayo and the Marsalis family (father Ellis and brothers Branford, Wynton and Jason) earned the nation’s highest jazz honor – a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award.

Marsalis is an exceptional trombonist who has toured internationally with his own groups, as well as those led by five renowned bandleaders.   His debut CD Pontius Pilate’s Decision (1992) was inspired by biblical tales, and 2010’s stunning Sweet Thunder gives the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn suite Such Sweet Thunder a modern day makeover.  Rather than merely recreating the classic work, which is comprised of musical depictions of characters from William Shakespeare’s plays, Marsalis took the work as a point of departure for his octet, creating fresh and new music with inspired performances. Sweet Thunder earned a place on numerous top CDs of the year lists and wide critical acclaim including 4 stars in USA Today and 5 stars in the Financial Times. Marsalis also created an original theatrical jazz production, Sweet Thunder: Duke & Shak, which toured widely in 2011.  He recently served as Music Producer for the upcoming film Bolden!, a mythical account of the life of Buddy Bolden, the first Cornet King of New Orleans.

Among Marsalis’ six CDs as a leader are the 1997 quintet date Musashi, which was praised by the All Music Guide for its “passionate originals… willingness to take chances and stretch himself and the result is consistently stirring post-bop music.”  The Last Southern Gentlemen (2014) is his first album-length collaboration with his father, Ellis. Incorporating his writings—including an essay on the sociological/historical themes that define the recording, commentary on the music, and original stories, children’s tales and poetry—The Last Southern Gentlemen saw New Orleans jazz royalty combine for an album of swinging playing and sociological heft.  The CD earned rave reviews including 4.5 stars from Monarch Magazine.  As Jennifer Odell writes in DownBeat, “Throughout the album, the performers prioritize warmth, tranquility and restraint while imbuing melodies and solos with the lyrical sentiments at the heart of the original music.”  And Marc Myers of JazzWax writes, “Marsalis exhibits a beautiful tone throughout as he’s accompanied by his father and pianist Ellis Marsalis, bassist John Clayton and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. A contemplative, embracing release from top to bottom.”

Marsalis has also been long involved in work as an educator. To inspire New Orleans youth through arts education, he founded the Uptown Music Theatre in 2000 and has implemented its Kidstown After School in three New Orleans grammar schools. He

 released Live at Jazz Fest 2011 with The Uptown Jazz Orchestra, and in 2014, he took the group to Africa to perform at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz event.  In addition, he has composed over 80 songs that help introduce kids to jazz through musical theatre and has reached over 5,000 students nationally with his Swinging with the Cool School soft introduction to jazz workshops.