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Glennie's lightning beats, percussive feats

April 08, 2006|Daniel Cariaga | Special to The Times

Thoroughly accessible and almost luridly colorful, Kevin Puts' new Percussion Concerto received its premiere performance Thursday night at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The Pacific Symphony, conducted by music director Carl St.Clair, hosted the soloist, the formidable Evelyn Glennie.

This was a most impressive first hearing, solidly and engagingly performed.

The composer has eschewed the noisy end of the percussion section's resources, instead using only the pitched instruments of the battery, such as marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, temple bells, glockenspiel and their ilk.

The result is a lyrical, near-Oriental milieu in a 27-minute showcase for Glennie's thrill-giving virtuosity and fast-moving feats of coordination.

In a darkened Segerstrom Hall, and assisted by a slowly evolving lighting scheme, the piece, written in an attractive, John Williams style, moved from a quick and mercurial opening section through a gripping and extended reverie to a furious, compelling finale. Glennie excelled at it all, the flying-mallets portions as well as the concentrated tonal poetry.

St.Clair and the orchestra brought sensitive collaboration to this complex, faceted score.

A full house in the hall greeted the work happily and was given more pleasure in the surrounding works: Copland's sunny "Outdoor Overture" and an enthusiastic performance of Dvorak's "New World" Symphony, to which the orchestra's mighty brass section contributed handsomely.

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