Eotvos: Psalm 151; Psy; Triangel

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WORKS: Psalm 151; Psy; Triangel
PERFORMER: Zoltán Rácz (percussion), Gergely Ittzés (flute), Miklós Perényi (cello); UMZE Chamber Ensemble, Budapest/Peter Eötvös
These three pieces were all written for the virtuoso percussion player Zoltán Rácz, who’s treated not just as a player of a battery of exotic-sounding instruments, but as the leader and co-ordinator of musical games and rituals involving as many as 27 players, in which the composer’s score leaves room for improvisation. These games are more effective when viewed as well as heard, and it has to be said that the purely musical interest in Psalm 151, a ritual for solo percussionist in memory of Frank Zappa, is pretty thin. After a while those muffled bass-drum thumps and scrapings start to seem aimless. Triangel, the longest piece on the disc, is as lavish with musical resources as Psalm 151 is restrained, but the problem is much the same. We get a procession of curious and occasionally seductive sonorities – glass bells with tuned glasses, vibraphone with electric keyboards, ear-splitting brass with tam-tams – but not much sense of a musical argument. In the midst of this aridity the harmonic and melodic invention of Psy, for marimba, cello and flute, comes like an oasis in the desert; a pity it’s only eight minutes out of a playing time of 65. The performances and recordings are uniformly excellent. Ivan Hewett