Grainger: Tuneful Percussion: complete works for percussion

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WORKS: Tuneful Percussion: complete works for percussion
CATALOGUE NO: MD 3222 (distr. +61 3 9497 3105,
This delightful disc brings together Grainger’s complete percussion ensemble music for the first time. And what an enormous variety there is, from fragile gamelan transcriptions to rambunctious English folksong settings and often bizarre original pieces – the early Eastern Intermezzo, inspired by the sights and sounds of Melbourne’s Chinatown, manages great wit and high spirits with the simplest of material, while the strange, chromatic Arrival Platform Humlet (a tune to be hummed while on a railway platform waiting for a lover to return, apparently) is a glittering Klangfarbenmelodie of different resonances. Grainger’s belief that percussion ensembles could bring a new clarity to music is borne out by the two most significant arrangements here, Debussy’s ‘Pagodes’ and Ravel’s ‘La vallée des cloches’, where the intertwining voices and ostinati of the piano originals are translated into a rippling texture of chiming sounds. Australian percussion ensemble Woof! generally gives fine performances, although the Debussy and Ravel both lack forward movement: the players seem too happy to wallow in the admittedly gorgeous sounds they are creating. Blithe Bells, a free ‘ramble’ through Bach’s ‘Sheep may safely graze’, is a highlight, the performers playing up to Grainger’s outrageously self-indulgent arrangement for all they’re worth. Recorded sound is excellent, and such is the diversity of music in the collection that the disc adds up to a very satisfying whole. David Kettle