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The ping’s the thing

Catch the percussionist Colin Currie on either side of the Atlantic

Michael Church | March/April 2012

Time was when percussionists were confined to the orchestra’s nether regions, like servants. Then came Evelyn Glennie, to free them with her blazing charisma. Skip a generation and Glennie has an equally charismatic successor: in the next two months Colin Currie (above) will be ubiquitous, with a string of premieres on disc and in concert halls on both sides of the Atlantic. This 35-year-old Scot may be able to raise the roof, but he can also mightily intrigue, as in his 2010 Proms premiere of Simon Holt’s idiosyncratic “a table of noises”, in which he created a series of enchanting musical worlds with the aid of taut, terse, high-pitched pings and pocks from wood, skin and metal.

The articulate Currie, who is also a professor at the Royal Academy, has spent the last decade giving the lie to the commonly held assumption that percussionists are just a bunch of noisy extroverts. He has opened up the discipline to incorporate sounds from Cuba, central Africa and Japan, and, using his ensemble the Colin Currie Group, he has encouraged composers to regard percussion as a routine part of the chamber-music armoury. Steve Reich’s “Drumming” is one of the classics he often plays, and Reich is now composing a new piece expressly for him. ~ Michael Church

Colin Currie Soloist in MacMillan’s “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel” and Rautavaara’s “Incantations”, both released in March

Classical at a Glance

The Death of Klinghoffer (English National Opera, London, February 25th).

John Adams's docu-opera about the hijacking of a cruise liner by Palestinian militants gets its London premiere under the direction of Tom Morris, co-director of "War Horse" and producer of "Jerry Springer: The Opera". The libretto mixes biblical and Koranic texts with eyewitness accounts. Bound to be interesting.

Rusalka (Royal Opera House, London, February 27th).

Hard to believe, but Dvorak's version of the Undine legend- with its ever popular "Song to the Moon"- is only now getting its Covent Garden premiere, directed by Jossi Weiler and Sergio Morabito. They set it in the backstreets and brothels of a small town today: an intriguing twist for a sylvan tale.

Die Walküre (Bayerische, Staatsoper, Munich, March 11th).

Andreas Kriegenburg's Ring cycle continues with an exceptional cast under the baton of Kent Nagano: Anja Kampe sings Sieglinde, Katarina Dalayman Brünnhilde, and Sophie Koch Fricka.

Macbeth (Metropolitan Opera, New York, March 15th). Adrian Noble's stylish production of Verdi's dark masterpiece returns. Lady M is sung by Nadja Michael, whoc took Chicago by storm in this role two years ago; her husband is the charismatic Thomas Hampson.

Kafka: La Métamorphose (Cité de la musique, Paris, March 21st)

Kafka's surreal tale ahs inspired many stage adaptations, but this musical-cinematic treatment may outdo them for sheer strangeness. It is conceived by the Quay brothers- seasoned stage magicians- with musical input from the maverick Russian pianist Mikhail Rudy, who will add Liszt and Janacek to the mix.

Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin (Royal Festival Hall, London, April 16th)

A long way off, but you are advised to book now: with Daniel Barenboim and how world-beating band beginning a series of Bruckner symphonies and Mozart piano concertos (Barenboim leading from the keyboard), this looks like another of hos epoch-defining stunts. 
~ MC

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