Concerto for 8bb and orchestra

Popular American composer Jennifer Higdon will compose a concerto for eighth blackbird and orchestra, to premiere in the 2009/10 season. Although we can officially announce this exciting news, it is not possible to mention publicly which orchestra will present the world premiere performance (and is in fact commissioning the whole shebang). So watch this space!

Jen seems to be America’s current official, salaried Concerto Composer, with a new violin concerto for Hilary Hahn to be premiered this season, and recent concertos for Time for Three, Jennifer Koh and Colin Currie receiving performances across the US and around the world. I was in London for the British premiere of the Percussion Concerto last year, and as the incredible Colin Currie interacted with the orchestra in imaginative, entertaining and virtuosic ways (culminating in a thrilling cadenza for percussion soloist and five orchestral percussionist), I must say that I became increasingly excited by the prospect of a concerto for 8bb.

We’re sure Jen will deliver a fabulous piece, but for what it’s worth here are some of my hopes: that Jen exploits our memorization and take-no-prisoners theatricality in interesting ways; that the ensemble’s members interact with our orchestral mirrors (orchestral flutes, clarinets, etc); that she pours all of her affection for the group into the score, giving us lashings of virtuosic, schmaltzy, cheeky, harsh music…

This is not 8bb’s first concerto. In 2003 New York composer David Schober wrote a concerto for 8bb and orchestra that was premiered with the Oberlin Orchestra, and also performed with the American Composers Orchestra in Carnegie Hall and the IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, TN. Hear a sample from the work’s premiere here.

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