Reviewer rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

eighth blackbird & Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Melbourne Recital Centre
April 27

GRAMMY Award-winning sextet eighth blackbird joined the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for the exciting opening concert of the Metropolis New Music Festival. The Chicago-based ensemble will perform throughout the nine-day festival that explores contemporary American compositions. American Timothy Weiss conducted this concert featuring four Australian and one world premiere performances.

First up was Andrew Norman's Unstuck, a collection of deliberately dissociated repetitive fragments that finds some sense when a trio of cellos breaks free to ascend the upper reaches of their instruments. Veils by Lisa Illean is a thoughtful exploration of sound-sculpting for chamber orchestra that uses layered motifs.

Things really got going with the visual and aural show-piece On A Wire by Pulitzer prize winner Jennifer Higdon. It opens with the six huddled around the grand piano, extracting sonorities by bowing the strings from inside. During their one-movement concerto, the group alternates ensemble tuttis with solo riffs, giving each soloist the opportunity to demonstrate their command in the conventional sense as well as their use of extended techniques. A high-energy conclusion came with Michael Gordon's Dystopia.