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Karl Jenkins, Keiko Abe, David Friedman, Tim Garland, Dave Maric, Eric Sammut: 
LSO St Luke’s Academy 2009: Timpani & Percussion/Neil Percy, Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s, London, 11.7.09 (J-PJ)

Karl Jenkins: B-Movie
Keiko Abe: Michi
David Friedman: Texas Hoedown
Tim Garland: Fullness of Time; Tempest Lights
Dave Maric: Shapeshifter
Eric Sammut: Libertango

As professional orchestras and ensembles vacate London’s main concert venues for the summer, their place is taken by semi-professional and student players, offering audiences an ideal opportunity to sample up-and-coming talent.

The week-long LSO St Luke’s Academy gives an annual opportunity for young musicians aged 14 to 24 to develop their skills in a series of master-classes and workshops led by professional performers. The 2009 intake focused on percussion, and this concert – conducted in part by the London Symphony Orchestra’s principal percussionist Neil Percy – showcased students’ achievements.

The programme featured three full-scale works. The first of these, B-Movie by Karl Jenkins, was scored for a large battery of percussion, plus brass ensemble with members of the 2008 St Luke’s Brass Academy lending support. Its outer march movements recalled the Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Dukas, with their rhythmic swagger contrasting with a central slow section dominated by marimba and glockenspiel.

The other two extended pieces were specially commissioned from Tim Garland through the Academy. The first, Fullness of Time, took the work of drum pioneer Bill Bruford as its inspiration. Brash rhythms stirred up further layers of sound from marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel and timpani, punctuated by ‘wake up calls’ from the tubular bells. Garland’s next piece, Tempest Lights, ended the concert. It was less exciting. Again featuring the 2008 Academy’s brass players, it was a rather literal representation of the build-up to a storm. It suffered in particular from the predictable use of percussion instruments to create naturalistic effects, such as marimba for rain drops, a wind machine and chimes.

The remaining works in the concert showcased the talents of individual players. While there was no doubting their performance skills, some of the pieces chosen failed to excite. Eric Sammut’s Libertango for marimba - played by Lucy Landymore - for example, sounded dry and plain in its structure. Keiko Abe’s Michi, also for marimba (Bethany Cordall), was similarly overly simple in its form – a kind of arc rising from piano to forte and then back again. There was much more fun in Dave Maric’s Shapeshifter, where marimba duo Daniel Bradley and Adam Clifford had to negotiate added pedal parts for drum, cymbal and cow bells. Philip Hughes also gave a virtuosic rendition of David Friedman’s Texas Hoedown for vibraphone, with its complex cross-rhythms and contrapuntal melodies.

John-Pierre Joyce
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