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Borrowed Time: Predicaments (2003) [5:29 + 4:34]; Lucid Intervals (2006) [3:57 + 4:25 + 2:17]; Sense and Innocence (2002) [10:11]; Shapeshifter (2001) [7:18]; Borrowed Time (2003) [10:00]; Trilogy (2000) [5:25 + 4:06 + 3:37]
Colin Currie (percussion) with Dave Maric (piano) (1,2), Hakan Hardenberger (flugelhorn and trumpet) (3-5), Sam Walton (percussion) (7), Clive Driskill-Smith (organ) (8) DDD
ONYX 4024 [61:36]


This disc is the result of a long-term collaboration between esteemed percussion virtuoso Colin Currie and composer/pianist Dave Maric. The pair met when performing as part of the Steve Martland Band in the mid-1990s. The CD was funded by the Borletti-Buitoni Trust. All the works on this disc were composed between 2000 and 2006, and make use of Currie’s percussion, with pairings with other instruments, including trumpet, organ and electronics.

The opening work is Predicaments, a ten minute piece in two movements for percussion and piano, with the composer playing piano. The piano often takes an accompanying role, blending well to become part of the percussion section. The duo has an excellent sense of ensemble. From the outset, we are taken on a journey into Dave Maric’s captivating sound-world. Even the slower paced opening of the first movement has energy and momentum which maintains the listener’s interest. The movement drives forwards towards syncopated piano chords, over which the percussion line demonstrates Currie’s more than impressive virtuoso technique. The second movement is faster, with a relentless driving semiquaver pulse. This is thrilling to listen to, with the playing having a sense of liquidity and ease, and the string rhythmic accents urging the listener to dance along. The piano here comes into its own, with impeccable evenness and clarity.

The most recent piece, Lucid Intervals was written for Currie and Håkan Hardenberger for the Verbier Festival in 2006. A tripartite work, the opening movement features fragmented melodies and interrupted lines. Using just marimba, vibraphone and crotales from the available array of percussion, the sound is unified and both percussion and trumpet are deployed both melodically and to maintain the rhythmic flow. After a slow, melodic opening, the second part of the second movement [1:43] is reminiscent of Copland or Stravinsky. There is a strong rhythmic energy, perhaps as one would expect of a percussion CD. Part three starts even more slowly, with a beautiful trumpet lines against gentle crotales. Hardenberger’s reputation is such that one expects greatness, and he has not let us down here. His sound is rich, emotive and highly satisfying to listen to. The third movement of this piece is perhaps one of the most beautifully played trumpet lines I have ever heard.

Sense and Innocence inhabits a different world of sound. Using percussion and sampled percussion, for me, this is the highlight of the disc. The ethereal sounds of the opening are captivating and take on a new dimension. The music bursts into repeated riffs with a beat which is reminiscent of pop music and once again encourages dancing. The more upbeat sections are juxtaposed against bowed cymbals and electronically treated sounds, moving without warning from light into darkness. The return to the opening mood is all the more spooky, as a result of having interrupted the flow of the previous material. The performance is again flawless, to the extent that one is hardly aware of the performance, but instead drawn towards the musical world which it presents. At times, it is impossible to tell what is electronic and what is live; the sounds merge to form a unified whole. There is tremendous variety within this ten minute work, and I long to hear it in live performance. This is excellent music, superbly played.

The percussion duo, Shapeshifter is performed here with Sam Walton. With an underlying energy that seems characteristic of Maric’s work, the piece has an obvious jazz influence. The piece moves through a number of different sections, each maintaining the sense of journey that was so apparent at the start of this CD. The opening of each section is like going through a door into another room of a very large house; everything is different and yet follows on from the previous material. The sense of ensemble here is impeccable, with both players evenly matched.

The title track of the CD, Borrowed Time is another fascinating example of Maric’s work, with the somewhat unusual pairing of percussion and organ. Recorded at Westminster Abbey, the different acoustic gives a sense of space to this piece compared to the others on the disc, but it has been carefully balanced and the change is a welcome addition to the recording. The marimba dominates, with the organ’s bass notes giving support for the moving percussion above it. The organ part takes on a mostly accompanying role, emerging from the texture and then disappearing again to allow the percussion to take center-stage. It is a relationship that is highly effective and enchanting.

Chronologically, the first commissioned piece in this set is Trilogy, written in 2000 for Currie’s recital engagements in Japan and the USA. As the title suggests, the work has three movements, with a total duration of approximately 13 minutes. The work combines a vast array of live instruments with electronics. The first movement has a very distinct groove, with strong off-beat accents and imaginative use of the instrumental resources. The calmer central movement has a more exotic feel, with more unusual sounds entering the arena through tasteful electronic treatments. The work ends with a short but highly energetic third movement, full of drive and pace.

Currie has helped to transform the percussion from something that stays at the back of an orchestra into an exciting solo display. The array of sounds available has wide appeal for both composers and audience alike, and his work with new repertoire is to be commended. His playing is not only technically fluid, but it is also highly musical, with a natural feel for phrasing and good communication with the listener. The result, on this CD, is a series of contemporary works which are approachable and engaging, without being dumbed down in any way.

Carla Rees

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