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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Rains

Les Percussions de Strasbourg is one of the longest lived (founded 1962) and greatest percussion ensembles on the planet. They are alive and very much well, as their latest release Rains (Percussions de Strasbourg PDS119) attests.

We are treated to four compositions. Three do not stint on unpitched percussion (read "Drums") and all carry forward the High Modern "tradition" with plenty of psychic whollop. The Takemitsu is more pitched-instrument oriented (see description below). All are very worth hearing and done to a turn.

On  the program are "Regentanz" by Toshio Hosokawa (1955-), "Sange" by Malika Kishino (1971-), "Hierophonie V" by Yoshihisa Taira (1937-2005) and "Rain Tree" by Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996). So one of the first things one notices is that all four are by Japanese composers. Happily they sound intricately which perhaps Japanese percussion works tend to do? They are detailed and involved, all four of them one could say. Nothing is Minimalist per se; all are microscopically active down to fine details, or at least that is how they sound to me. That suits my ears, certainly. There is an art of gesture also--like martial arts perhaps the style of doing is important, not just the "done." Listen to "Hierophonie V" especially for that but it never disappears so much as it is subtle at times.

Listen too to Takemitsu's "Rain Tree" for the uncanny, mostly quiet detail of multiple pitched percussions gathered together to say something weathered and profound. There is a good deal more than eaves drip here but perhaps you might hear a bit of that too. As Minh-Tam Nyugen says of the title Rains, we are "dancing with the rains in order to conjure, just for a moment, what we thought invisible."

Poetic percussion? Very much a yes. Outstanding music and performances. Highly recommended.

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