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Kroumata Launches 2006 Oistrakh Festival

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Jul 2, 2006 - 12:00:00 AM in reviews_2006

PÄRNU, ESTONIA: Japanese conductor Kiyotaka Teraoka should have put the rose between his teeth, but he gallantly gave the floral tribute presented to him at the end of the 2006 David Oistrakh Festival opener at Pärnu Kontserdimaja July 2 to the Pärnu City Orchestra concertmaster instead.
   Teraoka had just finished conducting Rodion Shchedrin's irreverent, percussion-rich "Carmen Suite," final work on a classy and thoroughly enjoyable concert featuring the Kroumata Percussion Ensemble of Sweden. The six-man Kroumata had the first half of the concert to themselves, making splendid work of Arne Mellnäs' ethereal "Fragile," Iannis Xenakis' exciting "Okho," Kroumata member John Eriksson's inventive "Forest of Hands" and Estonian composer Galina Grigorjeva's haunting "There is a Time for Autumn."
   The ensemble also performed Swedish composer Anders Nilsson's 2002 Concerto Grosso No. 2, "Orbit," for six percussionists and strings, a single-movement work that moved from poignant to exhilarating in 12 colorful, engaging minutes.
   Lighting enhanced the first half, with the ensemble emerging from blackness one by one in "Fragile" (1973), a spell-binding open weave of crotales and marimba (both bowed), glass bowl rubbed with the fingers and synthesizers. A trio of Kroumata performed "Okho" (1989) on Peruvian Cajuns (wooden boxes) which they sat on and knocked, tapped, slapped and kicked with amazing facility. Four Kroumata members joined forces on a single marimba in Eriksson's 2005 "A Forest of Hands," intended to suggest the motion of tree branches against each other.
   Grigoryevna took a bow for her "Time for Autumn" (2004) for all six percussionists. This vivid, mood-setting work (recorded earlier in the day) is scored for, among others, tubular bells, marimba, vibraphone, rainstick and as if to suggest nature's annual retreat, a plaintive slide whistle at the end. Kroumata's Anders Loguin handled the marimba cadenza deftly.
   Shchedrin's once-banned ballet suite (composed for his wife, Bolshoi prima ballerina Maya Plisteskaya) made a flambouyant finale with its lavish percussion-immersed treatment of the familiar Bizet themes. The "Fate" motif never pounded so hard (snare and bass drums), Carmen and Don Jose never romanced so lustily (or tragically) and the Toreador seemed the butt of all the jokes.
   Encore was a repeat of the "Toreador Song" marching band style, with the Kroumata bursting into song and the audience clapping along.