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Review: Fortas Chamber Music Concerts: eighth blackbird at The Kennedy Center

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eighth blackbird‘s performance on Monday night at The Kennedy Center was introduced with the theme of murder and mayhem, which explained the state of the set. Rickety looking ladders, dead clocks, knocked over chairs, and large sheets strewn about, with numerous instruments positioned round the stage. Mayhem indeed.

eighth blackbird. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

eighth blackbird: Nathalie Joachim, flutes, Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets, Yvonne Lam, violin & viola, Nicholas Photinos, cello, Matthew Duvall, percussion, and Lisa Kaplan, piano.

The Kennedy Center Fortas Chamber Music Concerts presented 4-time Grammy Award winner eighth blackbird, a world renowned sextet, with a singular style. The group’s ensemble includes Nathalie Joachim (flutes), Michael Maccaferri (clarinets), Yvonne Lam (violin), Nicholas Photinos (cello), Matthew Duvall (percussion), and Lisa Kaplan (piano).

The group performed several pieces, one of which being a piece from Composer David T. Little called Ghostlight, newly commissioned from The Kennedy Center Abe Fortas Memorial Fund.

Bryce Dessner’s Murder Ballades, which brought both eighth blackbird and Dessner a Grammy Award, was also performed, with smaller pieces by David Lang and Ted Hearne’s By-By Huey interspersed between.

Hauntingly beautiful is too simple of a description of the pieces, filled with discords, sudden bursts of sound, and eerie tones suspended just above the realm of silence. There was an intensity in the way the ensemble played and it amplified the striking dissonance and seemingly rhythmic-less patterns that, through a patient ear, began to transform into a heart-pounding and intense cacophony of sound and emotion.

This was my first experience with this genre of contemporary classical and I believe that I have been missing out.  The music was intriguing, far beyond beautiful and truly transformative.  Thank you Fortas Chamber Music Concerts for exposing me to such a pleasure of the senses.

Running Time: 90 minutes, including one intermission.

Fortas Chamber Music Concerts: eighth blackbird performed for one night only on March 7, 2016, in the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center – 2700 F Street, SW, in Washington, DC.  For more information on eighth blackbird, visit their website. To see what’s coming up next for the The Kennedy Center Fortas Chamber Music Concerts, call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or purchase tickets online.

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