> Drum Together [CT]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Peter Sadlo and Friends: "Drum Together"

Dean WILMINGTON (b.1969) Heat
John CAGE (1912-1992) Third Construction
Matthias SCHMITT (b.1958) Ghanaia
Iannis XENAKIS (1922-2001) Psappha
Minoru MIKI (b.1930) Marimba Spiritual
Nandor WEISZ (b.1978) Improvisation Latino
Peter Sadlo and Friends
Claudio Estay, Philipp Jungk, Biao Li, Famadi Sako, Dean Wilmington, Nandor Weisz
Recorded at Teldec Classics International, Studio Berlin, December 2000 DDD
TELDEC 8573-85877-2 [69:09]


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Here is a disc that should be compulsory listening for anyone who is of the opinion that contemporary music cannot possibly be entertaining, exhilarating or sheer fun. Don’t be put off by the names of John Cage or Iannis Xenakis for I defy anyone not to be amazed, fascinated or at the very least simply interested in the tremendous diversity that these six works for percussion ensemble offer.

Himself one of the world’s leading percussionists, Peter Sadlo has assembled a multi-cultural and hugely talented group of musicians from as far afield as Chile (Claudio Estay), the West African state of Guinea (Famadi Sako), China, Australia and, closer to home, Hungary and Germany. It is this cross-fertilization of cultures that is exploited in the music, from the indigenous Australian sounds of Dean Wilmington’s Heat, to the wild, South American rhythms of Improvisation Latino by Nandor Weisz.

Dean Wilmington’s work commences with the extraordinary sound of the Bull-Roarer, a kind of bass didgeridoo that the Aboriginals use to call up spirits. There is a truly elemental atmosphere to this piece; one can almost feel the blazing heat of the outback and the scorched earth underfoot as Wilmington fuses native Australian sounds with those of modern jazz to create an unlikely yet highly effective work. John Cage’s complex but never less than exhilarating Third Construction accumulates its "heat" in a contrasting manner, latent rhythmic energy that builds to a final climax of almost manic intensity. Highly imaginative in its use of a bewildering variety of instruments this work is by a true pioneer of the genre. Matthias Schmitt’s Ghanaia started out as a piece for solo marimba and still features a very prominent part for the instrument although having been expanded by the group into an ensemble piece. The deceptively atmospheric opening, an appeal to the villagers to a dance festival, soon gives way to an exciting Ghanaian dance rhythm, featuring the talents of African master drummer Famadi Sako and led by the bass drum or "doun doun". Xenakis’s Psappha is the only work on the disc for solo performer and as such sits slightly at odds with its more heavily scored counterparts. Here Xenakis prescribes the dynamics, tempo and rhythm whilst allowing the performer the freedom to select the instruments. Although brilliantly played by Peter Sadlo, the work comes across as a little dated when listened to alongside the still newly minted sounding Cage work. The African connection already explored we move to Japan for Minoru Miki’s Marimba Spiritual, with traditional Japanese melodies and Kodo drummers the principal influences. As the title implies, the marimba carries the main melodic impetus, Miki initially exploring metallic instruments and switching to wooden instruments for a second recitative part way through the work. It is not difficult to see why Improvisation Latino by Nandor Weisz was chosen to bring the disc to a conclusion. A thrilling adrenaline rush of South American rhythms, much of the music is improvised using a bizarre variety of everyday items including dustbin lids, household brooms and car springs. The result is hugely effective and must also, as with most of this music, have a tremendous visual impact when performed in concert. Fantastic stuff.

Aided by recorded sound of the highest order Peter Sadlo and Friends offer virtuosity and variety in abundance. This is a disc that has taken me somewhat by surprise but is possibly the best recording of works for percussion ensemble I have ever heard and definitely not just for percussion junkies. I would recommend anyone to give it a go.

Christopher Thomas.


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