Stereo Action

 

Defying Gravity

WAAPA Music Auditorium

reviewed by Neville Cohn

 

By just about any yardstick, Stereo Action was a thundering success. True, at times, fingers in ears were necessary to mitigate, at least to some degree, the massive sonic blasts which punctuated the evening’s proceedings. Perhaps the area of sound absorbing panels on the auditorium walls needs expansion.

 

With the linking commentary of the ever-ebullient Tim White who has done so much to make Perth a significant centre for top level percussion performances, the WAAPA students (with some additional sonic muscle provided by young student percussionists from UWA), gave ample evidence of focussed ability.

 

With so many players giving of their best, it is perhaps invidious to single out individuals for special mention. But it would be ungracious not to particularly praise the players who gave an account of white-hot intensity of Fire in the Sky – led by the extraordinary Marcus Perrozzi who also wrote the work.

 

IMG_0191Perrozzi’s skills have been honed in recent years as percussionist with Cirque de Soleil – and on Saturday, he was at his impressive best, leading the players on to the stage from the rear of the auditorium while hurling massive sonic blocks at the audience. This was a riveting experience in both sonic and visual terms.

 

Earlier, we listened to what, in the 1930s, would have been startlingly adventurous to Western ears: a major work scored for percussion instruments only. I wonder what Edgard Varese would have thought of the avalanche of Western percussion works which came in the wake of his barrier-breaking Ionisation.

 

In a program that contained much flexing of sonic muscles, Xiaowen Pan’s gentle offerings of Chinese traditional melodies on both Chinese flute and oboe provided unfettered listening pleasure.

 

Another unforgettable offering was the first ever public performance of Tao Issaro’s Trikaal which began in stygian darkness with a prolonged and unyieldingly ferocious assault on a drum surface. The sheer intensity of attack and the fierce focus required to maintain momentum brought this listener to the edge of his seat.

 

Laurels to two young percussionists, both on vibraphone, who reached for – and touched – the stars: Ben Albert in Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse and Tom Robertson in the first movement of Emmanuel Sejourne’s Concerto for Vibraphone. In the most articulate and meaningful way, these young percussionists are what Defying Gravity is all about: training and mentoring the best of young musicians who will take their skills to a wider constituency, bringing honour not only for themselves but the dedicated teachers at WAAPA who make this happen.

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