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Pedro Carneiro with Drumstruck!
Purcell Room 24 November 2003

Pedro Carneiro '... e todo eu me alevanto e todo eu ardo ...' (Part 1b - Version II)
Cameron Sinclair Funk Loops
John Cage Third Construction
Joao Pedro Oliveira Liquid Bars
Toru Takemitsu Rain Tree
Minoru Miki Marimba Spiritual

London has been enjoying a short festival of Portuguese music. The three programmes which Musical Pointers was able to cover were associated with the release by Deux Elles of three CDs, of similar repertoire and with the same artists.

Support for the Atlantic Waves concerts has been variable (there are too many nightly choices in this musical city) and the Purcell Room was less than half full for Pedro Carneiro, who had made a notable debut there as a PLG Young Musician. A regular visitor to London meanwhile, he joined with Drumstruck! in the festival for an eclectic programme of mainly recent music.

The first half was dominated by John Cage's seminal and timeless ear-opener Third Construction (1941), which explores an infinity of rhythmic and timbral combinations that keep you alert to know what will come next. Before it, I found Cameron Sinclair's Funk Loops relatively simplistic sub-Reichian system music, and thought Carneiro's own '... e todo eu me alevanto e todo eu ardo ...' hampered by its short sections requiring sticks changes which broke the continuity; also, he resorted too often to the eerie sound of 'bowed marimba', an effect which was once a novelty, now rather passé.

Oliveira's Liquid Bars for marimba and tape was another example of this composer's skill at unifying live and electronic music to make an enriched whole - it sounds even better on the recording included in the Atlantic Waves sampler prepared by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Takemitsu's Rain Tree for three marimbas had more liveliness than many of his pieces, but was seriously compromised by the dire 'lighting design'! For the most part we had to sit in darkness, which makes the Purcell Room even gloomier than usual, then spotlighting each of the marimbas as it did its bit suggested that we don't have stereo ears to use without prompting! The evening ended impressively with Pedro Carneiro unleashing unsuspected power from his marimba in Miki's Marimba Spiritual to hold his own against the onslaught of the untuned percussion of Drumstruck!

Pedro Carneiro Crazy Mallets Deux Elles DXL 1071

Carneiro's CD has the marimba strictly solo. There is far more quiet music than you might expect; indeed it is a little short on excitement and obvious virtuosity; I would characterise Pedro Carneiro on this showing as a poet of the marimba, but Miki's piece in the concert showed he can summon up showy fireworks with the best of them!

RSA Brass & Galliard Ensemble
Purcell Room 29 November 2003

RSA Brass Jazzi Metal Deux Elles DXL 1087

The works for brass sound better on the RSA Brass's CD (Deux Elles DXL 1071) than they did live in the unforgiving Purcell Room, where the climaxes were too loud for comfort. For the second half, The Galliard Ensemble gave a satisfying, well balanced programme of Portuguese wind quintets and solos for clarinet and flute there, which is replicated, with additions, including , in their generously filled disc. All three CDs are well recorded and are worth exploring. Brass and percussion enthusiasts (and players) will discover interesting new repertoire, and the general listener should perhaps go first for The Galliard Ensemble's collection; they are going from strength to strength with regular exposure as BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists and must be congratulated on exploring this field, initially with the encouragment of Luis Tinoco.

Light - Distance Deux Elles DXL 1084

This whole event, supported by the Gulbenkian Foundation, confirms my experience on our travels to European festivals that every country has music and composers undeserving of the obscurity in UK which is their all too common fate, that so because of nationalistic preoccupations amongst concert organisers. (See my reports from Antwerp, Luxembourg etc.) These CDs all merit a warm welcome and congratulations to the musicians involved and the confidence of the Deux Elles record company.

These national festivals, whether here or abroad, are opportunities for meeting and meeting again; I was glad to renew acquaintance with Miguel Azguime, poet, percussionist and composer of electronic music. I had met him, and also Joao Pedro Oliveira, in Lisbon and have from them CD compilations of their music; that is the way that contemporary music from less favoured countries often gets circulated against a climate of commercial resistance. From Luis Tinoco I was pleased to receive an impressive orchestral work, which shows that he is comfortable with larger canvases - too expensive to bring those to UK, but perhaps one day Tinoco's Round Time too may become available on commercial CD?


© Peter Grahame Woolf