What they are saying about Firebird…


"These intense chamber symphonies sometimes have a hard jazz swing to them, but the most abiding impression is that of lustrous, lyrical melancholy; the Firebird Ensemble performs them not only with expertise but with the sympathy of devoted colleagues." -Russell Platt, The New Yorker

“The performance was superb, robust and grand” BOSTON GLOBE, December 2009

 “Energetic and precise..” BOSTON GLOBE, March 2008

 “It’s hard to imagine another group doing so well as the intrepid and energetic Firebirds..” BOSTON GLOBE, December 2007

 “They have the chops, the energy, the style…” BOSTON GLOBE, February 2006

 “In the free spirited Firebird Ensemble, Boston has its equivalent to such prominent, genre busting new-music ensembles as Eighth Blackbird and Alarm Will Sound” BOSTON GLOBE, December 2005

 “The holiday seasons most offbeat musical event, Firebird Ensemble’s performance of Jon Deak’s The Passion of Scrooge proved to be one of the most captivating” BOSTON GLOBE, December 2005

 “The compositions were perfectly performed by the excellent Firebird Ensemble from Boston” IAMIC Newsletter, reporting on a performance in Symphony Space, NYC.

 “Ambitious and eclectic..” and “The groups strengths as an ensemble were most evident…” NEW YORK TIMES, February 2003

 “Performances were flat out terrific”, “Mature and highly professional, a most welcome addition to the local scene” and “A strikingly memorable performance of the Martino that mastered its formidable technical challenges while conveying its special lightness of being” NEW MUSIC CONOISSEUR, September 2003

 “Since its inception in 2001, I have watched this vibrant ensemble develop into the kind of group truly needed to reach the next generation of serious music audiences. It takes an unusual blend of serious musical technique, creative repertoire selection and a sense of style and fun to reach new audiences and wake them up  to the possibilities of our country’s composers” JOEL GORDON, Audio Producer 

"Firebird's performances of my works are the kind of virtuoso realizations that any composer dreams about:  They take a work - and beyond performing it impeccably - make it truly come alive.  The word 'fire' in their name is apt.  They are HOT!”  - JON DEAK Composer

“Highly eclectic and virtuosic” LEE HYLA, Composer, Faculty - Northwestern University


The New Yorker - April 1, 2013 - Russell Platt

Classical Notes: Close Encounters

In contrast, Lee Hyla, a distinguished veteran academic, seems to yearn for a world not of his own making—the suburbs of Vienna, where the ghosts of Berg and Webern still lurk. It’s a classic predicament for a postwar American composer to have, one that Hyla, on his new album, “My Life on the Plains” (also on Tzadik), solves by forcing his post-Expressionist paradise to interface with sounds derived from personal experience, such as the Niagara Falls of his childhood (“Polish Folk Songs”), the treasury of North American birdsong (“Field Guide”), and the vast empty stretches of Wyoming (the title composition). 


I Care If You Listen - April 4, 2013 - Matt Mendez

Lee Hyla: My Life on the Plains on Tzadik

Hyla’s new portrait disc, My Life on the Plains, contains all the Wolpean awareness of “the structures of fantasy and the fantasies of structures” we’ve come to expect from the current Northwestern University professor, but now newly leavened with a welcome dose of easygoing lightness — a canny choice on Hyla’s part. 


The New York Times - April 12, 2013 - Anthony Tommasini

New Chamber Music from Lee Hyla

The American composer Lee Hyla has unassailable credentials within both avant-garde and academic circles. He spent his early years playing piano in new-music ensembles, rock bands and free improvisation groups. But he has also been a valued teacher of composition at the New England Conservatory in Boston and, since 2007, Northwestern University.


The Boston Globe - April 20th, 2013 - Jeremy Eichler

From Hyla to Mahler, Beethoven to Schoenberg

Boston’s loss was Chicago’s gain in 2007, when the ruggedly original composer Lee Hyla moved from his longtime perch at New England Conservatory to a new post at Northwestern University. Fortunately the musical ties forged here over the decades are still paying dividends, as is evidenced by this excellent new disc, “My Life on the Plains,” featuring Boston’s own Firebird Ensemble in expert performances of three recent works. Jeffrey Means conducts.


Boston Musical Intelligencer - February 17, 2013 - Vance R. Koven

Roseate Ensemble: Violas Consort with BMOP

In another masterstroke of imaginative programming for which it is renowned, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, under Music Director Gil Rose, offered a day-late billet-doux to the sultriest member of the string family at Jordan Hall on February 15th. “Voilà! Viola!” consisted of five works featuring the viola, four of them as soloist and one for an ensemble of eight. (one will have to come up with a clever collective noun for this).


Boston Classical - February 16, 2013 - David Wright

It’s “Voilà Viola!” night at Boston Modern Orchestra Project  

Why did the contemporary-music orchestra give a concert of five works that all featured the viola?

a. because they wanted to make a pun in French

b. because it was St. Violantine’s Day

c. because there’s some good stuff for viola out there

d. the orchestra ordered up two brand-new viola pieces, never heard before

The answer is “e” – all of the above (well, maybe not b).  Friday night in New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, led by its artistic director Gil Rose, presented a program featuring two world premieres, in which at least four authentic violartuosos put on a Boston Violathon, a moving violation, a typographical error elevated to a concert title: “Voilà!  Viola!”


The Boston Globe - February 18, 2013 - Jeremy Eichler

BMOP gives the viola its moment in the sun

And now, it might be asked, should we pity the viola? It is after all consigned to an unglamorous middle range, and is ever on the receiving end of all that merciless skewering (if you don’t know what I mean, type “viola jokes” into Google, or ask anyone who has played in an orchestra).

Not so fast, was the essential message behind Friday’s ambitious Jordan Hall program, assembled and deftly performed by conductor Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Its title ­— “Voilà! Viola!” — played off the status of an instrument essentially hidden in plain sight, always present on the symphonic stage yet seldom given much time in the spotlight.


Boston Globe - December 7th, 2011- Matthew Guerrieri

Firebird offers up 'Christmas Carol' musical
Kate Vincent - Artistic Director
Aaron Engebreth - Baritone and Jeffrey Means - conductor with Firebird Ensemble

Like finding an extra box of ornaments, the Firebird Ensemble brought back its tradition of Jon Deak’s “The Passion of Scrooge’’ this year, performing the new-musical version of Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol’’ in free community concerts at Faneuil Hall and, on Monday, Dorchester’s Strand Theatre. Deak, who came up from New York for the occasion, spins a version both modern and old-fashioned. Emphasizing the story’s psychological, hallucinatory side, Deak filters the entire story through a single baritone soloist, framing it as an updated version of that 19th-century diversion, the melodrama.


The Boston Globe - October 17, 2011 - Jeffrey Gantz

Firebird Ensemble heats up at Longy

CAMBRIDGE - “Mythic Beasts: Music of Myth and Imagination’’ was the title of Firebird Ensemble’s first program of the season, and indeed, the small audience at Longy School’s Pickman Concert Hall was transported, as if on the back of a great roc, to Japan for Eric Guinivan’s “Mie: Caprice for Eight Musicians’’ (2008), Italy for Andrew Norman’s “The Companion Guide to Rome’’ (2010), India and Pakistan for the world premiere of Guinivan’s “Avalerion,’’ and back home for John McDonald’s “Seven Album Leaves’’ (2011). As for John Orfe’s “Dragon’’ (1997), well, there be dragons everywhere.


Boston Herald - January 12, 2011 - Keith Powers

Allman Brothers get classical makeover
Roll Over, Beethoven

What do a classical quartet, a Cambridge jazz club and the Allman Brothers’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” have in common? A lot, said composer John Morrison, whose reworking of several Allman Brothers tunes highlights the Firebird Ensemble’s Friday date at Ryles Jazz Club.

The Firebird’s performance series, “Meat the Composer” (it used to be held at a Somerville rib joint), includes works that not only cut across genre lines, but ignore the lines altogether. Made up entirely of music inspired by jazz and the blues and performed by the classically trained Firebirds - a core ensemble of viola, percussion, cello and piano - the concert is an attempt, in the words of Firebird founder Kate Vincent, “to show that those boundaries don’t exist anymore.”


Boston Musical Intelligencer - October 31, 2010 - Peter Van Zandt Lane

Music Meets Physics at Harvard

Firebird Ensemble performed a program of Murail, Saariaho, Grisey, and Satoh at The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments at Harvard University on Thursday evening, October 28 (the concert was also presented Wednesday).  The venue featured some interesting visuals from a spectrograph being projected throughout the concert. Also on display were sirens and various historical instruments related to the physics of sound. All of the pieces accompanying the exhibit,Sensations of Tone: wave physics and the creative arts are, in some way, profoundly connected to physical aspects of sound, generally in ways which integrate technology.


Boston Globe - October 1, 2010 - David Weininger

Hyla in town with his ‘Life on the Plains’
Composer’s new piece touched by the West

Lee Hyla’s new piece written for Boston’s Firebird Ensemble is called “My Life on the Plains,’’ and at first blush the title seems like a bit of a goof. “My Life on the Plains,’’ after all, is the title of George Armstrong Custer’s autobiography, and Hyla is a composer who’s rooted himself in urban centers like Boston and Chicago. Not necessarily the guy you’d link to anything to do with cowboys and Indians.


Boston Globe - December 9, 2009 - Matthew Guerrieri

Firebird Ensemble feeds off the written word

MEDFORD - The romantic idea that music begins where language leaves off is, like most romantic ideas, a seductive simplification. The Firebird Ensemble’s Monday night concert at Tufts University offered a more nuanced picture: four new works, each implicitly or explicitly referencing the written word.


Bostonist - September 21, 2008 - C. Fernsebner

Firebird Ensemble and Boston Musica Viva at the Institute of Contemporary Art

Firebird Ensemble is always a pleasure to hear, and to watch, playing with crazy precision that made parts of Mario Davidovsky's "Flashbacks" seem like a series of physical actions and reactions, percussion knocking into piano and rippling out through violin, obedient to the laws of physics.


Boston Globe - September 20, 2008 - Jeremy Eichler

New-music fest opens with flourish

The inaugural Ditson Festival of Contemporary Music kicked off Thursday night at the Institute of Contemporary Art. It appears to be the first time that the local new-music scene has had anything quite like it: eight concerts over four days with performances by most of the city's resident ensembles and a few outside guests. Rounding up all those groups under one roof appears to have been a daunting logistical feat, but in theory, it's exactly what the scene needs to pull it together and increase its profile.


Boston Globe - February 13, 2008 - Jeremy Eichler

Firebird puts new pieces -- and a fresh approach -- on the menu

SOMERVILLE - When classical programs are called "meaty," it typically suggests they include a lot of substantial repertoire, and not per se that the music is served up with large portions of barbecue and hushpuppies. But that was exactly the case on Monday night, when the Firebird Ensemble performed in a low-slung basement space at Redbones BBQ in Davis Square. Tuxedos and poker-faces were checked at the door. Percussionist Aaron Trant played near a big picture of a pig with a surfboard.


Boston Globe - December 11, 2007 - David Weininger

Light touch plays well in this 'Scrooge'

Sure, the season is filled with "Messiahs" and carol sings, but another Yuletide musical tradition is taking hold in Boston, thanks to the Firebird Ensemble: The now-annual performance of "The Passion of Scrooge, or A Christmas Carol" by Jon Deak, a composer who's also a bassist in the New York Philharmonic.


Boston Globe - January 24, 2007 - Matthew Guerrieri

A meaty blend of jazz and rock

SOMERVILLE -- A mistress of Igor Stravinsky once revealed that the composer enjoyed watching zookeepers throw meat to the animals. So Firebird Ensemble's initiative to bring contemporary music to a carnivorous setting is not exactly unprecedented. On Monday night at Redbones, the chamber group served up its second "Meat the Composer" concert, an eclectic program slanted toward rock and pop influences.


Boston Globe - February 15, 2006 - Richard Dyer

Firebird adds some spice to hot venue

SOMERVILLE -- ''This is better than Carnegie Hall," observed Kate Vincent, director of the Firebird Ensemble, looking around at her satisfied public in the basement of Redbones Barbecue in Davis Square Monday night. There is nothing like a plate of ribs to put an audience in a good mood, and they don't serve them at Carnegie Hall


Boston Globe - December 19, 2005 - Richard Dyer

Unusual 'Scrooge' is a triumph

The holiday season's most offbeat musical event, Firebird Ensemble's performance of Jon Deak's ''The Passion of Scrooge," proved to be one of the most captivating. Baritone Aaron Engebreth turned in one of the most brilliant performances of the season Saturday afternoon in Emmanual Church, and so did the Firebird Ensemble, augmented for the occasion by seven additional instrumentalists.


New Music Connoisseur - March 2005 - David Cleary

"Firebird Ensemble: Tapestry"

The Firebird Ensemble's final presentation of the season was entitled "Tapestry."   On Sunday night's concert, your reviewer encountered an enchanting carpet woven from musical fibers culled from all across Asia.


New York Times - January 31, 2003 - Allan Kozinn


The Firebird Ensemble, a young group from Boston, made its New York debut with an ambitious and eclectic program on Wednesday evening at Elebash Hall, the attractive recital space at the CUNY Graduate Center. Like many groups of its kind, Firebird draws on a fairly large complement of performers so that just about any combination of instruments is possible. Even so, much of the program focused more firmly on individual strengths within the ensemble.


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