COMPOSERS: Bach,Chopin,Jolliffe,McNeff,Mendelssohn,Miki,Poulenc & Bartók,Veldhuis
ALBUM TITLE: O Duo
WORKS: Percussion works by Chopin, McNeff,Bach, Miki, Veldhuis, Jolliffe,Mendelssohn, Poulenc & Bartók
PERFORMER: O Duo: Owen Gunnell, Oliver Cox (percussion)
CATALOGUE NO: 88697 02720 2
Playing Bach on tuned percussion may suggest a music-hall turn, though purists might argue it is no stranger than playing him on piano, which generates sound percussively, rather than the plucked keyboards he wrote for. It has been done before, notably by Denmark’s Safri Duo, who began to adapt works by composers like Bach and Chopin in the late 1980s because no repertoire existed for percussion duo, but it is far from common and still forces you to listen to familiar pieces with a fresh ear.
These transcriptions often seem disconcertingly ‘right’ for the music: the marimbas sound spookily like an organ in some passages of Bach, while the piano pieces by Bartók, Chopin, Mendelssohn and Poulenc work well on marimbas and, where sustained tones are necessary, vibraphone. The compositions written specifically for percussion ensemble cover a range of moods and incorporate drums as well as marimbas. All achieve an admirable accommodation between rhythmic and melodic elements. Incidentally, only the faster second section of Miki’s Spiritual is included (Evelyn Glennie made an excellent recording of the whole piece for Catalyst in 1994) but the Duo plays this, and, indeed, everything else, with great spirit and incisiveness. Barry Witherden