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Praise

“Virtuosity and deft, precisely timed wit”
-Washington Post

“Commandingly elegant”
-New York Times

“Vibrant…superb”
-Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“An inspirational sense of fun and curiosity”
-Minnesota Star-Tribune

“The group performed with absolute aplomb”
-Boston Globe

“Dynamic”
-Chicago Tribune

“Mysterious, funny, endlessly inventive”
-Boston Classical Review

“Brilliant”
-Independent (UK)

“Technical precision, palpable groove and outstanding sound”
-Time Out New York 

“Hard-grooving”
-New York Times

“Savvy and hyper-talented young percussionists”
-Musical Toronto

“Fluency and zest”
-Andrew Clements, the Guardian (UK)

“Undeniably groovy…masterfully performed”
-Time Out Chicago

“One of the country’s finest new music ensembles”
-Chicago Reader

“The musicality and fierce focus of Third Coast Percussion electrified the room.”
-Sarasota Herald-Tribune 

Reviews and Features

Top 10 Classical Albums

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December 23, 2016
by Zoë Madonna

REICH: MALLET QUARTET, SEXTET, NAGOYA MARIMBAS AND MUSIC FOR PIECES OF WOOD

Third Coast Percussion These Chicago-based percussion adventurers ride Reich’s phasing waves with a subtle hint of slink. This is a record so translucent and playful that the phrases seem to leap out of your headphones, and individual blocks of wood melt into a blissful flow.

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Third Coast Percussion provides an Ear Taxi highlight with jointly composed premiere

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by Tim Sawyier
October 9, 2016

The program opened with Third Coast Percussion giving the world premiere of its own Reaction Yield. While all four TCP members—Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore—compose their own music, this is the first work they have written together collaboratively. Commissioned by the Glenn D. Prestwich and the Sounds of Science Commissioning Club, which subsidizes pieces that fuse music and science, Reaction Yield was far and away the evening’s highlight.

While the work is divided into four connected movements, Dillon in his prefatory remarks was emphatic that no member was solely responsible for any one segment. A delicate pulsing suffuses and unifies the whole work, while the individual sections are discernible by changes in instrumentation. Particularly memorable was an interlude calling for four triangles of different pitches combined with glockenspiels, which generated an ethereal rhythmic tintinnabulation. Three members also performed on amplified kalimbas (thumb harps) for an extended period creating a hypnotic, meditative atmosphere. One hopes that this will be the first of many collaborative compositions from Third Coast.

 

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Weekend Ear Taxi Festival events include several winning premieres

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by John Von Rhein
October 9, 2016

The staggering amount of brand-new classical music that is emerging from the inaugural Ear Taxi Festival reflects a broad-shouldered synergy among local composers, performers and audience members that’s rare in this nation but particularly emblematic of the Chicago-centric event as masterminded by Augusta Read Thomas.

The marvelous Third Coast Percussion foursome began its segment with the world premiere of a jointly composed piece, “Reaction Yield,” inspired by modern science and deriving its haunting power from intricate rhythmic ostinatos that draw on a kaleidoscopic array of shifting percussion colors.

The work whetted one’s ears for one of Thomas’ own pieces, “Selene (Moon Chariot Rituals),” a Tanglewood Festival-Third Coast co-commission receiving its Chicago premiere. The impetus of dance is never far from the surface of this exhilarating score, which melds the complementary natures of a percussion quartet and a string quartet to produce a study in inexorable rhythmic dynamism. One of Gusty Thomas’ most inventive creations, it drew a supercharged performance from the combined forces of Third Coast and Spektral.

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Third Coast Percussion Champions Steve Reich

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by Christian Kriegeskotte
September 14, 2016

In February of 2016, Third Coast Percussion (Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore) released their sixth recording in partnership with Chicago-based label Cedille Records. The album, simply titled Third Coast Percussion/Steve Reich, is a collection of definitive works by the eminent American master. Recorded over the course of a week in December of 2014, the program includes four contrasting works composed by Steve Reich between 1973 and 2009.

It is certainly safe to say that the form and aesthetic pioneered by composers such as Reich, Glass and Riley has become a large swath in the foundation of the current generation’s standard repertoire. A tenaciously American archetype, the consonant pulsations and rhythmic mantras of this pioneering group have carried over into the voices of subsequent generations of composers and landed before the fingers, mallets and lips of energetic young performers with great regularity.

Third Coast Percussion manifests this special energy with an expertise and insight not limited to simple technicalities. It seems to have become a kind of default as of late to praise every new recording on the grounds of a good performance and energetic repertoire that seems easy to listen to. But this is more than just an entrancing, glittery object. For music in which control, precision and technique establish the most basic departure point, which hovers just above a surface concealing the potential depth and profundity encoded within, remarking on how well they played is not enough—nonetheless, Third Coast Percussion knocks the performance out of the park.

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MITO SettembreMusica. Note su due spettacoli a Torino

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September 28, 2016
by Marco Enrico Giacomelli

PERCUSSIONI MINIMALI
All’Auditorium Rai si sono esibiti i vulcanici e precisissimi componenti di Third Coast Percussion, ensemble di Chicago fondato nel 2005, insieme ai pianisti David Friend e Oliver Hagen nella seconda parte del concerto.

La prima sessione è dunque tutta percussiva, con la perizia di Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin e David Skidmore messa a dura prova (brillantemente superata) dalla prima esecuzione europea di Surface Tension (2015) del compositore irlandese Donnacha Dennehy. Evidente la parentela con il Minimalismo, ma senza alcun timore reverenziale. Utile anche la breve introduzione di Stefano Catucci, a sottolineare l’accordatura degli strumenti, in alcuni casi variata durante l’esecuzione grazie a un sistema di aumento e diminuzione della pressione interna a tamburi & co. Azionamento rigorosamente orale tramite cannule in gomma e… polmoni.

Il secondo brano (di cui s’è bissato l’ultimo movimento, a dimostrazione della grande generosità degli interpreti) appartiene alla categoria dei padri: è il mitico Sextet (1984-85) di Steve Reich, il che equivale a dire un capolavoro del Minimalismo scritto da uno dei decani del movimento. Anche qui, impeccabile e soprattutto divertita e divertente l’esecuzione, sia da parte dei pianisti che dei percussionisti.

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Concert Review: Third Coast Percussion hits all the right notes

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June 24, 2016

by Robert Croan

It was not your grandmother’s chamber music at East Liberty’s Kelly Strayhorn Theater Thursday. Chamber Music Pittsburgh opened its enterprising Just Summer! season with a rousing and riveting concert by Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion — sounds quite unlike anything you’re likely to hear elsewhere in Pittsburgh.

The concert featuring virtuoso players Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and David Skidmore traversed wide-ranging works for percussion groups, from John Cage’s seminal “Third Construction” (1941) up to a recent work by Mr. Skidmore, who was percussionist with Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble from 2007-11. Mr. Connors and Mr. Martin also have performed with PNME.

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Three Takes on a Minimalist Pioneer

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by Allan Kozinn
July 4, 2016

Not so long ago, new recordings of Steve Reich’s music, while intended, on one level, for the enjoyment of the composer’s fans, were just as importantly in the business of documenting Mr. Reich’s evolving style. Most of the performances were by his own ensemble, Steve Reich and Musicians, or by the musicians who commissioned the works, usually with Mr. Reich supervising. It was not certain that these works would ever have second recordings, and at the time that didn’t matter: When you have music that is essentially rhythm-driven, with motoric surfaces and a modernistic rejection of emotionalism in favor of precision, what more do you need than a recording made under the composer’s imprimatur?

As it turns out, Mr. Reich’s work is as interpretable as the Beethoven string quartets or the Boulez piano sonatas. Alarm Will Sound made that point with its debut recording, a 2002 pairing of “Tehillim” with a revised version of “The Desert Music” that offered fresh views of works listeners thought they knew thoroughly. Since then, there has been a flood of Reich recordings made without the composer looking on. And with his 80th birthday approaching (on Oct. 3), three new discs join the queue: the London Symphony Orchestra Percussion Ensemble’s “Sextet | Clapping Music | Music for Pieces of Wood” (LSO Live); Third Coast Percussion’s “Steve Reich” (Çedille) and Ensemble Signal’s “Double Sextet/Radio Rewrite” (Harmonia Mundi).

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In a 1977 live recording from the Kitchen (Orange Mountain), Mr. Reich and company give a speedy, almost breathless account. Exciting as it is, there is something to be said for slowing the pace, as both the LSO percussionists and Third Coast Percussion do. The LSO version is oddly muted, though it has a measure of dynamic nuance, particularly in the work’s middle section, that Mr. Reich’s reading lacks. But it pales in comparison to the Third Coast performance.

For starters, Third Coast uses slats of purpleheart wood, which produce a rounder, more resonant tone than the claves Mr. Reich prescribes, and its performance, while rhythmically strict, has moments of dynamic suppleness that make the piece breathe in ways its competitors’ versions do not.

A similar difference in clarity defines the Third Coast and LSO readings of the magnificently contrapuntal Sextet (1984). Both take a less sharp-edged, aggressive view than Mr. Reich and his own ensemble did on their 1987 recording (Nonesuch), and where the balances on Mr. Reich’s discs sound carefully manipulated at the mixing board, the Third Coast and LSO recordings sound natural and organic.

But the LSO recording has a gauzy quality that makes the work’s keyboard and percussion timbres (sometimes bowed) sound seamlessly blended. The remarkable clarity of the Third Coast version, which gives every instrument a distinct profile, is more effective. Third Coast’s program is more generous as well: The disc also includes vital, bright-hued accounts of “Nagoya Marimbas” (1994) and the richly chromatic, three-movement “Mallet Quartet” (2009).

 

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Album review: REICH Third Coast Percussion

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June 2016
by Pwyll ap Siôn

Steve Reich’s music is often at its most effective when he writes for different combinations of percussion and/or piano, often set out symmetrically on stage in opposing pairs. This form of contemporary chamber music – unique in many ways to Reich – foregrounds some of its most important stylistic elements: rhythmic and melodic counterpoint; the combination and layering of interlocking patterns; and, most importantly, the dynamic interplay and subtle shifts in balance that are required collectively from the ensemble to best achieve these effects.

It is this last element that proves a stumbling block for some performances of Reich’s music. Third Coast Percussion get it absolutely right here. Consider, for example, the five-movement Sextet (1984) for percussion and keyboards, which has become something of a 1980s Reich classic. Third Coast take the first movement at a slightly steadier pace than the original recording by Steve Reich and Musicians (Nonesuch, 8/88) and certainly more slowly than Contempoartensemble under Danilo Grassi (Arts Music, 2002), who race through the opening chord cycle at such speed that the music’s rhythmic subtleties are largely lost.

Third Coast’s more considered approach allows them to dig deeper into Sextet’s dark, almost threatening undertow. A sense of urgency and immediacy is still maintained, however, and the transitions between each movement are well coordinated. The same level of care is evident in the more recent Mallet Quartet (2009) with imaginative blending of colours, dramatic dynamic thrusts and sudden contrasts especially evident during the work’s final movement. The intuitive rhythmic empathy between players that’s key in performing Reich’s music is also evident in the lighter Nagoya Marimbas (1994) and more radical, earlier Music for Pieces of Wood (1973) for five pairs of tuned claves. The recording itself would have benefited from a slightly more resonant acoustic but overall this is a really impressive Reich debut from Third Coast Percussion.

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New, radiant and beautiful

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June 2016
by Anthony Burton

This enjoyable anthology of recent music by the American composer Augusta Read Thomas comes right up to date with Of Being is a Bird, recorded at its premiere in London last July…. The same sense of purposeful motion runs through the DNA-inspired string quartet Helix Spirals, which progresses gradually from scattered pizzicatos to bowed unanimity, and Selene, for percussion and string quartets, which depicts the moon goddess’s journey across the skies with irresistible forward drive, pausing only for moments of radiant beauty.

Claire Booth and Aurora capture the poetry and liveliness of the Dickinson settings, the Parker Quartet are impressively assured in Helix Spirals, and Third Coast Percussion and the Spektral Quartet interlock with exhilarating precision in Selene.

Performance ★★★★★
Recording ★★★★★


Third Coast Percussion releases a Steve Reich album on Cedille Records

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February 21, 2016

by Stephen Smoliar

Third Coast Percussion is a Chicago-based quartet of percussionists that was formed in 2004 by Anthony Calabrese, Robert Dillon, Jacob Nissly, and David Skidmore. At the time they were both percussionists with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and students at Northwestern University. (The “third coast,” presumably, is that of Lake Michigan.) In the current group Sean Connors and Peter Martin have replaced Calabrese and Nissly. While Chicago is “home,” the group is currently ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame.

 As might be guessed, the group has an active commissioning effort; and Skidmore is one of the contributing composers. They also collaborate with other Chicago-based groups, including Eighth Blackbird, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and Hubbard Street Dance. They have been recording since 2008 and participated in a project to record the works for percussion by John Cage. This has involved them with labels such as Mode Records, New Focus Recordings, and New Amsterdam Records.

Last month Third Coast Percussion released its debut album with Cedille Records. The album offers four of Steve Reich’s most notable percussion works and was produced as their way of acknowledging that composer’s 80th birthday, which will take place later this year on October 3. In chronological order the works on the new album are “Music for Pieces of Wood” (1973), “Sextet” (1984), “Nagoya Marimbas” (1994), and “Mallet Quartet” (2009).

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