Starting the new year off with a bang: Grubinger, Eschenbach, and LA Phil dazzle with Tan Dun’s new percussion concerto
January 11, 2013 Leave a comment
A new composition for a new year. Seems rather poetic, doesn’t it? Often such gestures work better in concept than in practice, but thanks to Martin Grubinger‘s virtuoso performance of The Tears of Nature, Tan Dun’s new percussion concerto receiving its U.S. Premiere last Friday night care of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, this one worked wonderfully.
Mr. Tan creates an eclectic yet accessible soundscape that ranges from melodic to clangorous and everything in between. It begins simply enough: Mr. Grubinger led the orchestral percussionists in ensemble, clicking together semi-tuned pairs of stones; muted harp played in the background. As the soloist walked from the front of the stage to the back where a battery of seven timpani were set up, the score began to expand and grow increasingly complex. The soloist’s pitch-bending timpani cadenza served as the high-point of the movement.
The second movement had a similar developmental arc: a quiet, dreamy opening section, with atmospherics care of the orchestral percussionists bowing Tibetan singing bowls; later, an aggressive ending featured Mr. Grubinger with some amazingly fast fortississimo (yes, “fff”) four-mallet work on marimba. The energetically cheery finale featured variations on a recurring 8-note melodic theme that made its way through the orchestra, not to mention being featured in another cadenza played by Mr. Grubinger, this time working on every part of the large array of tuned and non-tuned instruments set up at the front of the stage.