> Open Percussion: Percussion Music [GPJ]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Iannis XENAKIS (1922-2001)

Rebonds for percussion solo

Open I, Improvisation
Open II, Improvisation
Open III, Improvisation

Åse HEDSTRØM (b.1950)

Flow for marimba
John CAGE (1912-1992)

The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs for voice and piano
A Flower for voice and piano
Franco DONATONI (1927-2000)

‘Omar’ - Due Pezzi per vibrafono (Two Pieces for Vibraphone)
Rolf WALLIN (b. 1957)

Stonewave (Version for solo percussion)
Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen, percussion and voice
Recorded 13th-16th November 2000 at Sofienberg Kirke, Oslo, Norway
BIS CD 1219 [68:58]

‘The Kitchen Sink’; ‘The Hit and Run Accident Department’; and – my personal favourite – ‘the Thud and Blunder Section’; all these and more have been used by musicians to poke fun at the percussion section of the orchestra. One clumsy percussionist I came across was known to his colleagues as "Lightning" – because he was said to be unable to strike in the same place twice.

These attitudes – is there such a thing as ‘instrumentism’, like sexism or ageism? Viola players please comment – are largely a thing of the past, thanks to groups such as the Kroumata Ensemble, or individuals like Stomu Yamashta, Evelyn Glennie, and the soloist of this CD, the brilliant Norwegian Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen.

During the past century or so, the percussion section has not only expanded in size at a startling rate, but has developed a large solo and ensemble repertoire.

This disc explores some of the music playable by a solo percussionist, though Kjos Sørensen is a versatile and imaginative musician, who not only includes improvised work here, but sings on two of the tracks. These are two little pieces by John Cage, where the voice is supported solely by percussive sounds made by hitting the case of a piano. Some of the impact, particularly the surprise element that Kjos Sørensen describes amusingly in his booklet commentary, is bound to be lost in an audio-only recording. But the strangely hypnotic quality of the pieces, with their strong oriental influences, comes over well.

The music on this disc consists of a varied programme of existing compositions interspersed with three improvisations by Kjos Sørensen; these are the three Open pieces that give the CD its title, and they are carefully calculated to follow on from, introduce, or form a bridge between the other pieces. So the opening piece, Xenakis’s ‘Rebonds’, which is in two contrasted but equally powerful movements, is followed by the thoughtful, hesitant Open I for marimba. This acts as a kind of prelude to Hedstrøm’s Flow, a restless fountain of liquid tone from the marimba.

Donatone’s Omar is, for me, the most striking (no pun intended) piece in this collection. It is a two-movement work for vibraphone, a large species of metallophone, with a sustaining pedal and an electric fan which creates vibrato. In his first movement, Donatone explores the chiming, explosive sounds the instrument can produce, then follows this with a mesmerising demonstration of the throbbing effects of the fan. This is followed by Open II, also for vibraphone, and drawing strange and beautiful tonal distortions from the instrument.

Rolf Wallin’s Stonewave, which has, I think, already been recorded on BIS in its ensemble version, is here given a spectacular solo performance by Kjos Sørensen. His sheer technical bravura is bracing, and he describes in the booklet his sense of fun and mischief in performing the work, right down to Donald Duck impersonations! The whole thing builds up to a thrillingly physical climax, and is a real tour de force of percussion technique. The concluding Open III is a gently Phrygian piece, featuring the performer whistling in unison with his glockenspiel.

In many ways, this CD is an amazing achievement. Kjos Sørensen is a brilliantly gifted performer, but clearly an imaginative and creative one too. A very special issue, continuing BIS’s tradition of opening our minds and our ears.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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