From left, Christopher Froh, Ayano Kataoka and Ian David Rosenbaum in a percussion-focused show at Alice Tully Hall. Photo by Benjamin Norman.
Wood Taps Give Works a Slick Beat
‘Drumming’ Puts Spotlight on Percussion Works
February 4, 2015 | The New York Times
During a performance of Thierry de Mey’s “Musique de tables” for percussion trio (1987), Ian David Rosenbaum, Christopher Froh and Ayano Kataoka sat at a table on the stage of Alice Tully Hall like three somber-faced magicians, their athletically choreographed tap-dancing hands eliciting a remarkable array of tones and timbres from the pieces of wood laid flat in front of them.
There were humorous touches as the musicians turned the pages of the scores on the table with exaggerated gravity, Ms. Kataoka peering at one page with feigned surprise before their hands began their energetic ballet, sometimes moving in tandem like synchronized swimmers.
“That was really cool,” I said to my friend several times during the concert on Tuesday, presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. It certainly proved one of the society’s most imaginative lineups — a visually and sonically compelling spotlight on an instrument family infrequently given center stage by major institutions for a whole program, despite the large number of works written for percussion in the last century.
Mr. Rosenbaum, Mr. Froh and Ms. Kataoka opened the program with Djuro Zivkovic’s wildly energetic, at times frenzied, “Meccanico” from “Trio per uno” for percussion trio (1999).
In Dominic Murcott’s version of Conlon Nancarrow’s “Piece for Tape,” arranged for percussion (1950s), performed by Mr. Froh, low-timbred virtuoso riffs evolved into a higher sonic tapestry of throaty sounds that evoked an Amazonian frenzy of chattering birds.
Mr. Rosenbaum performed his own transcription of John Cage’s “In a Landscape” for marimba, which Cage wrote during a stint at Black Mountain College, a haven for avant-garde artists in North Carolina.
Mr. Rosenbaum’s mallets were illuminated in the evocative lighting, seeming to rise and fall in slow motion in a gentle rhythm that mirrored the sonorous, meditative flow of the piece.
Toru Takemitsu’s “Rain Tree” for percussion trio (1981) was inspired by a short story called “An Intelligent Rain Tree” by the Japanese author Kenzaburo Oe.
“Listening to my music can be compared to walking through a garden and experiencing the changes in light, pattern and texture,” Takemitsu once said. Mr. Rosenbaum, Mr. Froh and Ms. Kataoka offered an alluring interpretation of Takemitsu’s piece, whose mystical, unsettling landscapes are evoked by the lush sonorities of the crotales (small cymbals).
The first half of the program concluded with a entrancing rendition of “Drumming: Part I” for percussion quartet (1971) by Steve Reich, a pioneering composer whose innovative techniques like phasing can be heard in this piece, influenced by a trip to Africa in 1970.
The pianists Wu Han and Gilbert Kalish joined the percussionists for a vividly wrought rendition of Bartok’s “Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion” (1937).