By Jonathan Blumhofer
A welcome addition to Scottish percussionist Colin Currie’s endlessly fascinating discography – in addition to to Austrian maverick H.Ok. Gruber’s.
1 / 4-century separates the 2 items on Colin Currie’s new album, which is dedicated to percussion concertos by the Austrian maverick H.Ok. Gruber. Tough Music, a phantasmagoric, wildly unpredictable journey dates from 1983. Into the open… comes from 2010. Whereas the latter is, broadly talking, extra elegiac in tone (Gruber wrote it within the aftermath of the loss of life of his pal, David Drew), Into the open… inhabits a sound world not too far faraway from Tough Music.
The sooner piece, with its three distinct actions and largely discreet placement of percussion devices inside them, showcases Gruber at his most typical (which is to say, nonetheless effectively off the crushed path).
Tough Music’s first motion, “Toberac,” is commonly sunny: full of open textures and quite a lot of gently syncopated figures. The second, “Shivaree,” runs in an other way, pairing wild, drum kit-infused explosions with a subdued, bluesy theme; in the end, the 2 musics coalesce in a dense, Ivesian climax earlier than the blues tune closes issues out. For the finale, “Charivari,” there’s a Satie-esque Gymnopedie that, in the end, disintegrates (with the assistance of an electrical organ and bass guitar) and the music fades into the ether.
What, then, to make of it? Properly, that is music of terrific vitality and coloration. Additionally, eclecticism. Gruber’s at all times been a troublesome composer to pin down, stylistically, however the breadth of his writing right here, whereas huge, sounds and feels completely pure. The solo percussion writing is completely judged, particularly the scoring for vibraphone and marimba within the outer actions. And Gruber’s dealing with of the orchestra isn’t lower than deft.
Into the open… is marked by lots of those self same qualities. Right here, the piece is solid in a single, half-hour-long motion, one which takes its time getting began however, ultimately, lumbers right into a mighty, if faintly melancholy, dance.
Gruber’s writing for the soloist is extremely concerned and much more refined than earlier than (amongst different issues, the half requires 5 howl gongs and three sonorous plate bells). How he weaves these busy solo textures into the bigger orchestral texture is fascinating to listen to. At occasions, soloist and ensemble appear to be taking part in previous one another however ultimately they align in a cathartic coda.
One may hardly ask for a greater soloist in both piece than Currie, who’s probably the most invigorating percussionists on the scene at present. He’s received Gruber’s idiosyncratic type – the impish humor, combine of sunshine and shadow, sentimentality and seriousness – in his bones and, in each Tough Music and Into the open… you already know you’re in skilled fingers.
In each items, Currie’s accompanied by the BBC Philharmonic. Juanjo Mena is the conductor for Tough Music, whereas John Storgårds presides over Into the open….
There are some stability points within the former: Currie’s sound is simply too ahead within the combine and, because of this, at occasions sounds synthetic. Whereas the orchestral taking part in is vigorous and colourful, balances favor excessive woodwinds and brasses; the strings are too typically drowned out (even within the cacaphonic second-movement climax). That stated, a number of of the putting touches of Gruber’s instrumentation – just like the first-movement piano-solo vibraphone doublings and the finale’s digital instrument moments – come out strongly.
Into the open… is best balanced, even when Currie’s half is once more (sometimes) a mite too current.
Regardless, this launch is a welcome addition to Currie’s endlessly fascinating discography – in addition to to Gruber’s.
Jonathan Blumhofer is a composer and violist who has been energetic within the higher Boston space since 2004. His music has obtained quite a few awards and been carried out by varied ensembles, together with the American Composers Orchestra, Kiev Philharmonic, Camerata Chicago, Xanthos Ensemble, and Juventas New Music Group. Since receiving his doctorate from Boston College in 2010, Jon has taught at Clark College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and on-line for the College of Phoenix, along with writing music criticism for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.