S&H Festival Report

TWO PERCUSSION CONCERTS 26 & 30 September, Strasbourg

Amandida Museum of Modern Art, Strasbourg 26 September

Les Percussions de Strasbourg 30 September Palais des Fêtes Strasbourg. (PGW)

Extremely loud ambient noise from permanent equipment at the Museum of Modern Art (see Concerning multiple venues, dimming and sound pollution in Two Cellists review from Strasbourg) caused Zoltán Rácz to refuse to begin Amandida's percussion concert. The intrusive noise could not be eliminated, so Rácz was obliged to continue with the solo version of Psalm 151 by Peter Eötvös, a ritual memorial protestation in memory of Frank Zappa, with strophes on bass drum and 'processions' on metal instruments, included on a recommended CD [BIS 948]

After that, five percussionists of Amandida, including composer Lázló Sáry, embarked upon the latter's Polyrhythmia, destined to continue for 80 mins and well past midnight - we did not last the course.
[PICT Lázló Sáry (Marthe Lemelle)]
Played on 100 little suspended ceramic pots, each with its designated rhythm, Polyrhythmia (1980) combines Reichian process music with Cageian choice, each player deciding to move on to his next pot when he judges that 'the formation of a musical constellation is complete'. It made a pleasant tinkling sound, and would have held attention more easily against a silent background, but it did occur to us that it was a strange way for grown men to be spending their time. (Fortunately, the problem was resolved for the lecture and double performance of Eötvös's Brass: The Metal Space. at the museum on the final day of the festival.)

Far more rewarding was the student Ensemble de Percussions from Conservatoires of Lyon, Luxembourg and Strasbourg and reported separately with another student concert. That memorable even was another demonstration of what has often been reported by Seen&Heard in UK, that some of the most vital and committed contemporary music-making is to be found nowadays in Universities and Conservatoires.

On Sunday evening, we found the Palais des Fêtes stage, which had accommodated 110 players from Montpellier the night before, completely filled with the exotic instruments of Les Percussions de Strasbourg, pioneers in the development of modern percussion playing and instigators of a new repertoire. Notably successful was Subgestuel (1991) by Gilles Racot, with a huge battery of mixed percussion enhanced by well integrated live electronics.

The carefully contrasted, highly virtuosic and energetic programme was despatched with unremitting verve by the five strapping men and one diminutive Japanese woman, joined by Carlo Rizzo, a famous Italian tambourine specialist. With his several sized tambourines conversing with the Strasbourg players one after another, he premiered Henry Fourés' Sommerbericht . For the largest, a tambourine polytimbral, he deployed what looked like a luminous pink lollipop, but the small sound emerging could have done with a little amplification.

Peter Grahame Woolf



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