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The world is a drum for Glennie

December 08, 2007|Richard S. Ginell | Special to The Times

Evelyn Glennie is said to own about 1,800 percussion instruments. She used to haul chunks of her collection along wherever she toured, and her solo appearance at Royce Hall on Thursday night was supposed to have included 60 instruments.

Yet this concert ended up with an economy-sized stash: only six instruments per se, not counting a few supplements. "Part of it is about getting older," the still-agile Scottish percussionist half-joked, but another part was that she doesn't need an arsenal to hold our attention.

Glennie -- or as of this year, Dame Evelyn -- remains a phenomenal player, and a daring one, smashing categories without a care while stretching the ears of her audience. She is also not averse to the idea of putting on an entertaining show.

Simplicity of means paid off big with Frederic Rzewski's "To the Earth," in which Glennie tapped out a jazzy groove and impossibly rapid passage-work on a set of four flowerpots while reciting Homeric verse. She revived Javier Alvarez's brilliant "Temazcal," wielding a pair or maracas against an infectious, bumping electronic tape.

A good deal of Glennie's time was spent behind a huge marimba, creating a dazzling, dynamically subtle, atonal symphony of sound in Nebojsa Zivkovic's "Fluctus," relaxing with Matthias Schmitt's diverse Six Miniatures, peppering Jacob ter Veldhuis' "Barracuda Solo" with whomps on a bass drum, roto-toms, wood block and cymbal. She transformed Steve Reich's "Clapping Music" into a nicely grooving thing for wood blocks, playing both parts while seated on the floor.

However, one has to ask whether some pieces should have been left in the practice room. Vinko Globokar's "?Corporel," for instance -- during which the performer slaps herself, grunts, whinnies, snores and otherwise exploits the noises a human body can make -- was at best silly, if not quite as annoying as some of his other work.

Overall, though, Glennie's concert was a spectacular display of musicianship. One hopes that someday she'll offer tours of her collection.

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