Miguel Bernat / Drumming

Jesús Rueda: Pocket Paradise

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The lively and imaginative music of Spanish composer Jesús Rueda (born in 1961) cannot be tied to any particular compositional orthodoxy. This disc, including most of the music he has written for percussion, reveals a fertile and probing imagination and a gift for using unconventional elements in ways that create an immediate connection with his audience. Pocket Paradise, an ambitious 25-minute, 5-movement suite for six percussionists, begins and ends using body sounds, and in between economically deploys a wide range of instruments in music that sounds spontaneous, freshly imagined, and inevitable in its progression. Marimba Estudio sounds lyrically easygoing, but actually requires a virtuoso powerhouse of a performer who is required to bow long, sustained notes while at the same time playing melodies and harmonies that athletically leap up and down the entire keyboard. Miquel Bernat, director of Drumming, the ensemble that performs all these pieces, delivers a knockout solo performance. The three studies that make up Estudios expresivos for four steel drums exploit the instruments' unique timbral possibilities in ways that sound entirely idiomatic but that avoid the Caribbean conventions almost exclusively associated with them. Perpetuum Mobile is perhaps the most traditional piece included, a playful, brilliantly scored piece for percussion ensemble, but it's written for only two performers who must have dazzling technical assurance to create an effect that sounds like it would require two or three times as many players. Bernat and his ensemble do dazzle in these exciting pieces that demonstrate that the performers and Rueda are musicians to watch out for. Anemos' sound is clean, vibrant, and present.

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