The Eastman Percussion Ensemble delivered a strong yet balanced performance at their Feb. 1 concert.
The pieces were not saturated in unnecessary notes. Each note was executed with a precision and subtlety that added to the overall depth.
On stage, there was also a unique exchange of roles between Eastman Percussion Professor John H. Beck and the guest soloist and conductor John R. Beck in the second part of the performance.
Beginning with “Six Bagatelles,” the ensemble presented a solid but simple series of musical structures of different meters and rhythms that were congealed with each other through subtleties of technique like the back end of mallets on the xylophone and the overlapping dream sequence-like glissandos in “Marimbas.”
“Drawings: Set No. 1” also built upon the subtleties of mallet choice, as well as the hard lines and boundaries set by the bongos, to which the snare and the rest of the quartet filled in with varying colors and shades.
By the end of the intermission, many members in the audience were surprised to learn that John H. Beck and John R. Beck were actually father and son, as John H. Beck came to comment, saying, “He’s going to conduct me, and I’m going to conduct him.”
John R. Beck seemed to have fun conducting his father in “Dinosaur Dance,” which in turn gave the piece a very celebratory mood.
John R. Beck shared in his father’s sentiments before his performance in the last two pieces, mentioning what “a great joy” he had in “sharing and learning” with the students at Eastman and the “tremendous joy to conduct each other.”
He also noted how the ensemble had been recording Michael Udow’s compositions, “Dinosaur Dance” and “Two Transparent Structures,” earlier that day for the Equilibrium label.
John R. Beck’s performance on marimba for “Two Transparent Structures” resembled that of a call and answer theme, as the rest of the ensemble would follow in the statements that he made.
The final piece “Mudra” showcased rapid discharges of strokes, accents and taps on the drum that kept the tempo of the piece pushing forward and vigorous.
The contrast of texture in the exchanges of notes between the metallic instruments and the crotales, added to the overall depth and contour of the piece.
From knitting needles on chimes to wire brushes on snare drum and suspended cymbal, a lot of the concert’s well-balanced sound was fortified by these subtleties.
Throughout the show, every note added to the solidity and texture of the music.
Figueredo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.