Támmittam Percussion Ensemble

A Homage to Lou Harrison

  • AllMusic Rating
    9
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

This is an album of seven percussion ensemble compositions written between 1939 and 1961. Composer Lou Harrison (born in 1917) is a unique and intriguing figure in the field of American music creators. These pieces, created over 30 years ago, are enriched with the inspiration of myriad cultures. Such internationalism in serious, neo-classical music is something the rest of the genre is only now catching up to. The opening "Concerto for Violin with Percussion Orchestra" has three movements and features Enrico Balboni on the energetic and dynamic violin lead. The violin proposes a closely fitted string of theme variations. Two climaxing movements (allegro to allegro vivace and allegro to poco presto) surround a flowing, song-like largo to cantabile movement. The percussion is a panalopy of flowerpots, washtubs, windbells, triangles, coffee cans, cymbals, drums, and more. Never enough of these instruments are employed to invite cacophony. The arrangement and rhythms perfectly mate with the violin passages. "Canticle No. 1" is written in the dance-like triple meter with rhythms that jump freely from wood blocks to gourd rattle and from cowbells to muted gongs. The three-movement "Suite for Percussion" is mostly in a moderate tempo, accelerating only at the very end. The 1940 piece figures in the interplay of bright, foremost triangles and small bells with muted brake drums (as found on a car) between two percussionists. "Canticle No. 3" offers the pastoral and tranquil sound of ocarina and guitar embellished with iron pipes, wooden box, marimba, and more. The subtly building "Fugue for Percussion" becomes a ramp up to the militant "Song of Quetzalcoatl." Balboni returns for the final, three-movement "Concert in Slendro." This piece features two tackpianos (prepared pianos) the equally mechanical sound of celeste (keyboard glockenspiel). With gongs, triangles, cans, and tubs in the background, the feel moves freely between Western desert and Oriental sounds. This album is a peerless exploration of unorthodox percussion possibility in the environment of structured music. Notes, some written by Harrison himself, are in Italian, English, and German.