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Xenakis Psappha, Rebonds & Okho

Pedro Carneiro (percussion)

Purcell Room, London 16 July 2005, 7.30 p.m.


Zig-Zag Territoires CD/DVD ZZT 040901 (UK Distributors RSK)

The launch concert for this CD/DVD, an unfamiliar format, was fine for the performances of the music, but misconceived in its organisation.

Pedro Carneiro (whose progress I have followed since he was a PLG Young Artist 1998) is a fine, mature percussionist but not 'charismatic' as he presents himself on stage. He began by introducing the DVD 'flip-side' of his new Xenakis recording with an on screen projection of a video on the making of the CD, in effect an advertisement, though an interesting one indeed. This took about a quarter hour, after which he asked the audience for questions. There were none!

Having not heard Carneiro play a note, we proceeded to the interval!

There was no printed programme for us to read to occupy ourselves. At about 8.10 we reassembled for the concert itself. Carneiro played Psappha to mesmerising effect (had he done so before the film and the interval, some dialogue with the audience would have ensued, with a proper split between the two halves of the evening's entertainment).

For Okho he was joined by his two colleagues on djembes, relatively simple instruments capable of unbelievably subtle timbral variety which held my attention, but not my companion's. Finally the two parts of Rebonds and the whole event was over by 9 o'clock. (A new piece was not fully prepared in time for its intended premiere, so he had indicated its flavour with the shorter of its two movements on marimba with tape; it needs to be judged as a whole.)

The CD was on sale & for a signing session. I hope it did well because it is excellent, despite having been criticised for its brevity - 36 mins music! This might tend to reduce sales, but it ought not to do so.

At first the music sounds somewhat austere. The CD/DVD has the benefit of Zig-Zag Territoires immaculate production and Makis Solomons' notes, which are greatly illuminating. He explains how and why Xenakis eschews the 'variety of timbres' drawn from the huge collections of instruments, with which star percussionists usually surround themselves to entertain us. The value of pulse for Xenakis is usually only 'as a point of reference'. Metre has 'disappeared or become more complex and extended'.

This is not music to absorb at a single hearing, so track times and total duration become irrelevant. It should be a compulsory purchase for percussionists and a recommendable one for exploratory others. The actual recording (and filming of the process) is superb, and this is a CD in demonstration class. But do not touch either surface of the disc!

I look forward next to a full DVD from Pedro Carneiro.

See also Johannes Fischer's notable debut disc [Editor]

© Peter Grahame Woolf