Various ‘Music For Percussion’

Music for Percussion box set frontMusic for Percussion booklet coverMusic for Percussion side 1Music for Percussion tracklist

Carlos Chávez Toccata For Percussion Instruments
01 Allegro (5:15)
02 Largo (3:48)
03 Allegro (3:17)
Alan Hovhaness
04 Bacchanale (2:37)
05 October Mountain for Percussion Sextet (8:27)
José Serebrier
06 Symphony For Percussion (10:39)

Tristan Fry Percussion Ensemble
Sir John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Total time 34:00
LP in special box set, released by Gale Records, UK, 1976

Sir John Eliot Gardiner20th century composers often turned to percussion to shock their audience, make a bold statement of independence or try to escape Western music’s 12-tone prison. Accordingly, percussion was the vector for many avantgarde endeavors, think Chostakovitch’s The Nose (1928), Varèse’s Ionisation (1931), Cage’s First Construction (in metal) (1939), Lou Harrisson’s Jephtha’s Daughter (1941), Harry Partch’s Daphne of the Dunes (1958) or Feldman’s The King of Denmark (1964). This LP introduces further masterpieces for percussion ensemble in a remarkably vivid recording and audiophile pressing. Mexican composer Carlos Chávez‘s Toccata, from 1942, is a very nuanced composition, making good use of the Western orchestra’s array of percussion (no exotic or Latin instrument included). Chávez deploys the percussion palette in subtle strokes, appropriately for a Toccata, who’s original definition is a composition for keyboard instrument. John Cage had actually commissioned the piece in 1940, but eventually rejected it as too traditional (his ears were not fully opened yet, presumably, and they weren’t either 40 years later, when he famously dismissed the music of Glenn Branca). Armenian-born, American composer Alan Hovhaness‘s Bacchanale (1968) and October Mountain (1957) are even more subtle. This is rarefied music, with chimes and marimba leading the way into a dreamy exploration of the percussion’s exotic potential. Trully magical music, comparable to some of Lou Harrisson’s own works. Urugayan composer José Serebrier makes full use of the drums’ skin properties and various resonances in his Symphony For Percussion from 1964. The composition enhances each instrument’s individual characteristics while not shying away from tuttis and fortes by the whole orchestra.


Carlos Chávez

13 Responses to “Various ‘Music For Percussion’”

  1. 1 Lucky November 16, 2009 at 9:40 am

    your introduction is a interesting read – percussion music being often a shock tool to escape western’s 12-tone-system. with jazz getting hip in the 30’s, percussion became more accepted in the u.s.a., let alone that percussion is a important part of most folk music, especially in latin america.

    it’s especially nice to hear another side from hovhaness, whom i only know for his contributions to accordion music (know him via guy klucevsek).


  2. 2 continuo November 16, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Not to mention sampling possibilities of such a record.

  3. 3 Lucky November 16, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    well – name me a record that isn’t fodder for possible or impossible sampling… i tried my hands on music from the solomon islands here.

  4. 4 continuo November 16, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    You can’t possibly sample from Heino.
    Very nice mix, Lucky. Just too short.

  5. 5 Natalie J. November 17, 2009 at 12:48 am

    I agree with Lucky above , nice to hear this Hovhaness percussion stuff – he’s not out to shock here, but to enchant and beautify the listener’s experience, IMHO. In fact Hovhaness’ life story is rather interesting.
    Serebrier i know nothing about, but an entire Symphony for Percussion sounds pretty bold for the early 1960s!

  6. 6 continuo November 17, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Thanks for dropping by, Natalie and for the interesting Hovhaness link. I also particularly enjoy his 2 tracks featured here.

  7. 7 ICTUS75 November 17, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Listening right now. As a percussionist this is pretty cool stuff. Thanks for digging it up. If you have more percussion stuff, please post.

  8. 8 continuo November 17, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks for your comment. It’s a pleasure to know you’re enjoying this LP. Are you possibly a member of Belgian Ensemble Ictus? I’d be very flattered. I’ll check if I have more contemporary percussion works.

  9. 9 ICTUS75 November 19, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Sorry, not part of the Ictus Ens. The name is my homage to Italian percussionist Andrea Centazzo.

    Again, this LP is really some great percussion compositions. Thanks.

  10. 10 continuo November 19, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    No problem.
    Yet, you know, some celebrities read my blog ;D

  11. 11 Schwartzy December 13, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    I remember playing October Mountain at University years back!!! I think it was Hovhaness’ trips to the East which inspired him to write such sensitive and orginal percussion music.
    These trips are documented at the Alan Hovhaness web site, where oddly enough I recently saw a new historical disc where his 1st Symphony is coupled with Serebrier’s 1st Symphony, conducted by the great Stokowski, no less.

  12. 12 continuo December 14, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Thanks, Schwartzy. This comprehensive Hovhaness website definitely deserves more investigations from people interested by the man. It’s great to have such online resource and I wish there’d be similar pages devoted to other composers.

  13. 13 Sina June 7, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    The uploaded files does not exist! Please re-upload this record!

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