June 28, 2005
New York Times

“A Snare Drum Solo? Why Not? And Then Let’s Hear It for the Marimba” by Allan Kozinn

Evelyn Glennie, the Scottish percussionist, closed the third season of the Free for All series of free concerts at Town Hall on Sunday afternoon with what she called a ”minimal recital”. It wasn’t that the program was short or unsubstantial; what Ms. Glennie meant was that instead of working her way through a stage packed edge to edge with every imaginable percussion instrument, as she usually does, she concentrated mainly on one, the marimba.

Even so, she used other instruments in two of the seven works on the program. In an extended improvisation based on Keiko Abe’s ”Michi”, for example, she struck, bowed, shook and blew into a dozen or more oddly shaped drums and metal objects before returning to the marimba for a beautifully textured, graceful expansion on Ms. Abe’s score. The program also included ”Prim”, a solo snare drum work by Askell Masson, an Icelandic composer.

A snare solo might seem an unpromising prospect, but Mr. Masson, who has also written a snare concerto, provided an engrossing exploration of rhythmic patterns, dynamic expanses and even the subtle melodic possibilities that the instrument offers. And Ms. Glennie, as always an energetic and intensely focused performer, made the work’s rolls, rhythmic patterns and hard thwacks into something both musical and dramatic.

That, of course, is what she’s famous for, and listeners who think of percussion as an instrumental class not quite as musical as strings, winds or keyboards learn quickly to think again. This time, only the Masson and Abe works hammered that message home, since the rest of the program was the marimba, one of the most conventionally musical instruments in the percussion arsenal.

Ms. Glennie used a five-octave model, which gave her rounded, almost liquid-sounding bass tones and tightly wound treble timbres, and a graduated range of sounds between those extremes. And she chose works that used that full palette as well as a broad range of dynamics and timbres. She offered ”Fluctus”, Nebojsa Zivkovic’s brisk, bright study in polyrhythms, as a curtain-raiser, and showed a gentler, more jazz-tinged side of the instrument in Mathias Schmitt’s urbane ”Six Miniatures”.

In another of Ms. Abe’s works, ”Memories of the Seashore”, Ms. Glennie produced a gracefully undulating, dreamy sound. And she drew on the instrument’s more extroverted character — to say nothing of her own virtuosity with hands full of mallets — in Toshimitsu Tanaka’s ”Two Movements” and Leigh Howard Stevens’s ”Rhythmic Caprice”.

Ms. Glennie is performing at the Aspen Festival, in Colorado, on Thursday and Sunday, and at the Interlochen Festival, in Michigan, on July 21, 22 and 23.

(C)2005 New York Times

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