Percussionist Kuniko Kato’s album Cantus brings two of my passions together: Percussion and minimalism. This album follows her album Kuniko Plays Reich which was released in 2011. After receiving much praise for that album, she “wanted to make minimalist music more accessible.” She achieves this spectacularly in Cantus which was released in 2013.
The album opens with Für Alina by Estonian Composer Arvo Pärt. This piece is normally about 11 minutes in length, but Kato opts out of repeating phrases and shortens it to 4 minutes. She recorded the piece in a small ancient church, which is a perfect environment for the resonate tones of the vibraphone and crotales to sing at this slow and contemplative tempo.
New York Counterpoint by Steve Reich is one of his most popular compositions. It is a piece originally scored for amplified clarinet and tape. She utilizes the entire range of the five octave marimba and various types of mallets and methods of striking in order to mimic the clarinet perfectly.
Pärt’s Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten It is a threnody written to mourn the death of Composer Benjamin Britten, who Pärt admired dearly. It is originally scored for string orchestra and bell. This work translates to marimba very clearly. Kato rolls the notes on the marimba throughout the whole piece, creating a giant resonate sound.
Purl Ground by Hywel Davies is the only piece on the album that is originally scored for marimba. The piece stays very quiet and has a humming quality, never surpassing the half-way point of the marimba. Kato calls this piece “deeply evocative.”
Fratres and Spiegel im Spiegel are two more compositions from Pärt featured on the album. Fratres was written in 1977 and many versions exist today, from piano and cello to string orchestra and percussion. Her arrangement for marimba uses soft mallets on the low end of the marimba, harder mallets on the mid and high range, and bowing of the marimba keys throughout. The bowing is quiet, you have to listen closely. Spigel im Spigel was originally scored for piano and violin. It is repetitive and played at a slow walking pace. Kato rolls the melody notes on the marimba while the repetitive tonic triads are played on the high end of the marimba. Bells chime in brightly throughout the piece.
SOLI Chamber Ensemble from San Antonio Texas recently released a new album titled “Portraits.” This album features four newly commissioned works from composers Erich Stem, Peter Farmer, Elliott Miles McKinley, and Diego Vega. Composer Erich Stem is also Associate Professor of Music at Indiana University Southeast and produced the album at New Dynamic Records. It was recorded in Louisville, Kentucky at TNT Productions. Daniel Gilliam interviewed Erich Stem and spoke with him about the concept for the album and the story behind each composer’s piece. You can listen to the interview below and you can purchase SOLI’s “Portraits” on iTunes and CD Baby.
Sebastian was commissioned by Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra for a new symphony. Mr. Chang was in town for the performance and talked with Daniel Gilliam about the creative process surrounding his first major work.
Violinist Jinjoo Cho joined us in the Performance Studio of Classical 90.5 to perform a concert on February 3rd. Ms. Cho received the gold medal at the 2014 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis in September. The Gheens Great Expectations Program welcomed her and the administrator of the Gheens series pianist Jeff Jamner accompanied her. She gave an outstanding concert of “Grave and Fuga from Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003″ by J.S. Bach, “Sonata in E Minor, K. 304″ by W.A. Mozart, and “Fantasy for Solo Violin” by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Daniel Gilliam hosted the concert, and spoke with Ms. Cho and Glen Kwok, Executive Director of ICVI.
Michelle Frech recently joined Classical 90.5 as an intern. She is a student of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville studying Music Business. Over the next few months Michelle will be writing for our website, focusing on some of her interests which include percussion music.
Award-winning percussionist Casey Cangelosi is an outstanding performer, composer, and educator. He is a truly versatile percussionist. He writes for everything from marimba to multiple percussion and performs his works with ease. Cangelosi has a few nicknames in the percussion world such as “The Paganini of Percussion.” The Classical Marimba League calls him “a marimbist of magisterial power and insight.” He has performed in festivals all over the world and has been a guest at over 30 schools. Percussionists around the world, including myself, look up to Cangelosi as an inpiration. His solid technique and flawless exhibition is something all musicians aspire to attain.
My main love and focus in percussion is marimba. I have trouble with my snare drum technique and it takes me longer to work through more rhythmic pieces with non-pitched percussive instruments. A snare drum exercise that would take my fellow colleague an hour to learn and perfect would have me in the practice room for about 3 hours, if not more. This fact made me stubborn when it came to listening to rhythmic pieces for non-pitched percussion. “Wicca” by Cangelosi was the piece that changed all of that. When I first heard “Wicca” it was as if this block in my brain that kept me from enjoying a world of non-pitched percussion instantly vanished. I fell in love with the piece and could not stop listening to it. Then I dived into Cangelosi’s other works.
“Walking Left Handed” was another piece that caught my attention. This is another multiple percussion piece, but this one is played along with a recording. The recording is inspired by an interview with a woman who describes her effects of being on LSD. The piece requires both pitched percussion and non-pitched percussion. The performer plays in the dark with three candles lit and wears a head lamp. Blowing out the candles and turning the head lamp on and off is a part of the piece! This YouTube video is only part one, so be sure to continue to parts 3 and 4.
“Prelude in F Minor” is one of five preludes Cangelosi has written for solo marimba. His top right mallet sings the melody as his bottom three mallets accompany. He composed this specific prelude for his sister Amy. It is one of his many brilliant marimba pieces. Cangelosi is probably most well-known for his quick “White Knuckle Stroll” which is quite a challenging work. This prelude is still challenging, but it is much more lyrical and expressive.
You can hear Casey Cangelosi at the Kentucky Day of Percussion taking place at the UK Singletary Center for the Arts hosted by the Kentucky Chapter of the Percussive Arts Society on Saturday, February 28th from 10:00am – 6:00pm. Registration begins at 9:00am. Learn more at kydrum.com.