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Concertos for Mallet Instruments

Evelyn Glennie (percussion); City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong/Jean Thorel (Naxos)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
CD_8574218_Alrich

Concertos for Mallet Instruments
Alexis Alrich: Marimba Concerto; Karl Jenkins: La Folia; Ned Rorem: Mallet Concerto
Evelyn Glennie (percussion); City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong/Jean Thorel
Naxos 8.574218   71:01 mins

Another engaging disc from the ever-compelling Evelyn Glennie with three attractive concertos that should win many friends. From its shimmering opening, Alexis Alrich’s substantial three-movement Marimba Concerto creates a distinctive lyrical world. The insistent rhythmic patterns of minimalism sit naturally alongside calmer, more impressionistic textures allied to hints of Glennie’s fascination with Asian music. Under Jean Thorel, the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong are evocatively hazy when needed, yet also fresh and beautifully balanced with the marimba, an instrument all-too-easily overwhelmed.

With La Folia, the only previously recorded piece, Karl Jenkins joins the litany of composers inspired by this centuries-old theme, some of his figurations taking off from Corelli’s celebrated variations. The orchestra strings play with an appositely grainy, almost archaic, texture to underpin the simultaneously modern, yet ancient marimba. Full of delicious nuances, Glennie’s ever-musical virtuosity is to the fore, not just in the sustained streams of notes in the showier variations, but also in the numerous subtle flourishes that unobtrusively decorate more sedate passages.

Ned Rorem’s Mallet Concerto features pairs of movements each for vibraphone, glockenspiel and marimba arranged palindromically around a centrepiece for xylophone. Like Jenkins’s La Folia, it was written for Glennie and, while there is plenty of dizzying pizzazz, Rorem has the confidence also to write the simplest of lines for her. Ever-true to his inventive brand of neoclassicism, it is by turns wistful, quirky, exuberant and reflective, the final ‘An ending’ a profound conclusion to an engrossing disc.

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Christopher Dingle