“The Chicago-based new music sextet eighth blackbird took over this year’s Ojai Music Festival in Libbey Bowl for four days and packed it full with more and more varied music (and music theater) than ever before in the quirky, famous festival’s 63-year history,” writes Mark Swed in Tuesday’s (6/16) Los Angeles Times. “The blackbirds are examples of a new breed of super-musicians. They perform the bulk of their new music from memory. They have no need of a conductor, no matter how complex the rhythms or balances.” Swed discusses repertoire including David Michael Gordon’s Quasi Sinfonia for 16 musicians, which “goes to town with 19th-century musical hymns…. programming contrasts such as Gordon with Schoenberg were common all weekend. [Jeremy] Denk paired Ives’ hard-edged sonata, which also uses 19th-cetury hymn tunes, with Bach’s celestial Goldberg Variations.” Among festival highlights, Swed singles out Louis Andriessen’s Workers Union “with all festival participants magnificently banging away,” QNG (a quartet of German recorder players who “chirped alluringly in music new and ancient”), and Steve Reich’s Double Sextet—winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize in music, performed at the festival by twelve players.

Posted June 17, 2009