Eighth Blackbird, Third Coast Percussion | Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park | Classical | Chicago Reader

Eighth Blackbird, Third Coast Percussion Member Picks Free All Ages Soundboard

When: Mon., Aug. 22, 6:30 p.m. 2011

Steve Reich turns 75 on October 3, and as that landmark birthday approaches, the composer has been the subject of numerous career-spanning celebrations—including this impressive concert by two superb local ensembles, Eighth Blackbird and Third Coast Percussion. The centerpiece of the program is Reich's durable and popular Music for 18 Musicians (1976), which canonized his most enduring interests: complex polyrhythms and minimalist harmonic material. The work is built around 11 chords, each with its own dedicated movement; they convey a wide range of emotion by shifting from major to minor and precisely varying the patterns of relentless rhythmic pulses. Eighth Blackbird played it in February at the MCA, and this repeat performance is testimony to Reich's eminence: it's rare that a single piece by a living composer can be heard at two major concerts in the same city within a year. The other two works on this evening's program are much newer, and they demonstrate that neither Reich nor his proponents have to lean exclusively on his past achievements. Reich wrote the Pulitzer-winning Double Sextet (2007) for Eighth Blackbird, and its premiere recording came out last year, with the six-member ensemble accompanied by a recording of itself; tonight they'll be joined by six more musicians. The more recent Mallet Quartet (2009) was written for So Percussion, and their premiere recording of it appears on the forthcoming WTC 9/11 (Nonesuch). Both pieces have three movements (fast, slow, fast), and the latter embraces Reich's love of jazz, with springy, buoyant vibraphone atop hypnotizing low-end marimba. —Peter Margasak

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