Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The PercaDu Marimba and Percussion Duo performs in the JMC Chamber Music Series at the Jerusalem YMCA

The PercaDu Marimba and Percussion Duo presented a different kind of chamber music concert May 6th 2010 in The Jerusalem Music Centre’s 2009-2010 concert series, which takes place at the Mary Nathaniel Hall of Friendship, YMCA Jerusalem. Israeli artists Tomer Yariv and Adi Morag (both born 1976), graduates of the Royal Danish Academy of Music (Copenhagen), established PercaDu in 1996. The duo has a busy international performance schedule, playing as a duo, with orchestras, in festivals and holding master classes for percussionists. The recipient of several awards, PercaDu Duo was taken under the wing of the Jerusalem Music Centre in 2001, this collaboration leading to the recording of their first CD “PercaDu – Works for marimba and Percussion” and to the commissioning of works for the duo. In 2007, PercaDu was chosen to be a member of IcExcellence, an Israeli organization uniting people with vision, and artistry who are committed to expanding values of excellence in society.

The audience entering the YMCA concert hall was met by a stage crowded with all manner of percussion instruments, some more familiar than others. The program opened with Danish composer Anders Koppel’s (b.1950) “Toccata for Marimba and Vibraphone”. Its up-front fanfare bursting forth with a rush of intensity, Koppel’s work leads into a number of different sections and moods – a tango and a waltz, a fugue in 7/8 time, dramatic and humorous moments, sentimental and dreamy moments. A work of virtuosity and temperament, it certainly had the audience sitting up in their seats, excited and ready for more!

The duo performed two keyboard pieces of J.S.Bach (1685-1750) – Prelude in C sharp major from Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier and Prelude in A minor From Bach’s English Suite no. 2. In the former, Yariv and Morag build up the tension created by the perpetuum mobile process with lightness, agility and purposeful energy, leading to the prelude’s climax and end. The A minor Prelude, on the other hand, falls into sections, with the artists flexing tempi slightly and contrasting denser sections with sensitive, sotto voce playing.

Bela Bartok’s (1881-1945) “Romanian Folk Dances” (1915) are seven pieces based on dances recorded from simple folk on Bartok’s pioneering ethno-musicological trips taken from 1910 to 1914. Though Bartok would have heard these dances played on fiddle, shepherd’s pipe or bagpipes, he penned them for piano, later arranging them for chamber orchestra. The arrangements PercaDu played of three of them follow a general trend to arrange them for various instrumental combinations. Bringing out the delicacy of melodic lines and folk modes, Morag and Yariv choose gentle, sparkly textures to sketch the plaintive tunes. Especially effective was their use of the “hang”, an idiophonic instrument made of two curved steel sheets, the upper surface having a number of different pitch areas, and usually played with the hands and fingers, producing magical bell-like- or even harp-like sounds.

Australian composer Nigel Westlake (b. 1958) composed his “Omphalo Centric Lecture” for percussion quartet in 1984. It was inspired by a painting of the same name by Paul Klee in 1939, in which a figure (possibly a woman) represents Klee’s quest to look into the mystery at the centre of the universe, into what lies beyond. The PercaDu duo has arranged Westlake’s work for two players, receiving Westlake’s approval and enthusiasm for their good taste and understanding. The musical motifs in this piece are not Australian but African, the work including intense sections of driving rhythms, chromaticism and an almost visual sense of measureless African landscapes that ends up disappearing into the distance.

Tomer Yariv created the delightful arrangement of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt’s (1811-1886) piano piece Liebestraum (Dream of Love) no. 3 that we heard. Each of Liszt’s three Liebestraum movements, based on poems by Ludwig Uhland and Ferdinand Freiligrath, talks of a different aspect of love: exalted love, erotic love and mature love. The third nocturne is the most popular. Yariv and Morag gave it a sensitive and sensuous reading, their playing lush and warm, their glittering filigree runs punctuating phrases, winning the audience over with the delicacy of melodiousness and understatement..

Adi Morag’s “Kol Kadum” (Ancient Voice) was written to be performed at the 2009 Bible Festival in the Beit Govrin caves. Opening with a strong, uncompromising percussive section, the work becomes a kaleidoscope of sounds, textures and associations using Jewish- and Arab scales, with a smattering of modern Israeli oriental music here and there. Exotic at times, mellifluous and caressing at others, masculine and powerful at yet others, “Kol Kadum” reveals the rich and varied traditions of this part of the world. The score calls for the artists to make use of the many different instruments surrounding them; Morag and Yariv never miss a trick.

Providing yet another contrast, Tango no. 3 from Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla’s (1921-1992) Tango Suite, composed in1984/5 for two guitars, with its wealth of inebriating South American dance rhythms alternating with touching, sentimental melodies, is colored with interesting harmonic combinations. The duo illuminates the text with relish, translating the original score’s guitar-tapping into foot-tapping and sticks struck together.

The concert ended with Tomer Yariv’s “Gyro”, this title referring both to the action of a gyroscope and to the flexibility and stability demanded in the performing of martial arts. In the unrelenting intensity of the piece, we witness the artists choreographed into perfect synchronization, musical and visual aspects of the peace creating a fine balance.

Adi Morag and Tomer Yariv breathe a breath of fresh air into the concert hall. Their program is highly polished, communicative and it bristles with interest and variety. The two artists are gregarious, joyful and inspired; their ability to perform by heart, their energy, versatility and sheer virtuosity are breathtaking. PercaDu’s deep reading into the style and meaning of each work is matched with true musicianship.

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