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Classical Editor in Chief: Rob Barnett
Stephen MACKEY (born 1956)
Feels So Baaada
Martin WESLEY-SMITH (born 1945)
For Marimba and Tape
Blues for Gilbert
David HORNE (born 1970)
Piers HELLAWELL (born 1956)
Daniella Ganeva (percussion); Graham Instrall (percussion)abc; David Le Page (violin)a; Mike Watkinson (electric guitar)a; Cantata Youth Choirb; Michael Kibblewhite (conductor)b
Recorded: St Silas’ Presbytery, Chalk Farm, London, January 1997
GMN C 0111 [60:07]
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There are comparatively few records of music for solo percussion. The release under review has apparently been devised as a showcase for Daniella Ganeva’s performing skills since it includes works either regularly performed by her or written especially for her by composers from various musical horizons. Some of them are relatively well-known whereas others may be better known outside the realm of "traditional" classical music.
The young American composer Stephen Mackey is now making something of a reputation of his own (a full CD has recently been devoted to his music.) Feels So Baaad "arose as an antidote to the Chuck Magnione pop classic Feels So Good". This fairly crossover piece is scored for two percussion players, violin and electric guitar. Not uninteresting but a bit longish for its material. The Australian Martin Wesley-Smith may be somewhat better known. He has written several works for percussion, such as the highly entertaining White Knight and Beaver (1984). His For Marimba and Tape has some arresting sound textures, but is also a bit too long and somewhat lacking in variety. The young Scottish composer David Horne is also now making a name for himself. Rush calls for a larger array of percussion instruments, has many fine sonorities (e.g. bowed vibraphone), but I found it a bit directionless though the last section is more varied and animated. The Irish composer Piers Hellawell is a distinguished composer who has a considerable body of works to his credit. Percussion often features prominently in his pieces for orchestra or ensemble; so, no wonder that he has been drawn to writing a work for solo percussion. Let’s Dance (1996) has an appropriate dance-like character, and is a colourful eulogy of the dance.
Two composers were new to me here and, unfortunately enough, the notes do not tell us anything about them. Mark Glentworth’s Blues for Gilbert is a deeply-felt, bluesy elegy in memory of his teacher Gilbert Webster whose favourite instrument was the vibraphone. This short work is one of the finest ones in this CD. Graham Instrall, who also plays in Mackey’s piece and in his own works, is represented by two contrasted pieces : Relate which is again a bit rambling and which ends somewhat inconclusively, and Chasm, a curious title indeed, for this is in fact a setting of the Kyrie, of parts of the Gloria and the Sanctus, for children’s voices and percussion. The rhythmically declaimed Kyrie, accompanied by pounding drums and bells, is followed by a beautifully simple, ethereal setting of the opening lines of the Gloria accompanied by quietly chiming vibraphone. The sort of thing that Howard Skempton might have written. The Sanctus again opens in rhythmical declamation and ends in a dance-like section. I enjoyed this simple, deeply-felt work enormously.
I approached this CD with much trepidation and was eventually slightly disappointed by it. This has nothing to do with Daniella Ganeva’s technical and performing skills. I think that my mitigated response is due to the often limited scope of the pieces, as if some of the composers were a bit unsure about what they were to do in these pieces. Again, not uninteresting at all, but it is up to you to decide whether or not such crossover stuff may appeal to you.
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