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Surge / University Of Houston Percussion Ensemble


Release Date: 01/10/2006 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 816   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Rob SmithDonald GranthamBlake WilkinsRalph Vaughan Williams,   ... 
Conductor:  Blake Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Houston Percussion Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Works for percussion ensemble always run the risk of sounding silly, and I say this as a percussionist. The limitations of pitched instruments, even with today's advanced mallet-playing techniques, really do restrict what a composer can do. That makes this transcription of Vaughan Williams' strings-only Tallis Fantasia by Blake Wilkins, director of The University of Houston Percussion Ensemble, something of a tour-de-force. Here reduced to eight minutes (for obvious reasons), nine marimbas, and two vibraphones, the piece becomes an exercise in ethereal sonority that fans of the work will find fascinating--and very respectful of the spirit of the original. For that alone, I enjoyed this disc very much, but the various original pieces are Read more also well worth hearing.


Surge, the title piece by Rob Smith, is an entertaining pop/minimalist essay slightly let down by its ending, but full of fun along the way. Donald Grantham's Houston Strokes, four short pieces that never outstay their welcome, gets around the limitations of the medium by focusing on keyboard percussion and by offering some good tunes too. Blake Wilson's original composition Melos is the largest work on the disc, and while it may be a bit long for its material, it's also full of colorful sounds and contains a surprising amount of lyrical writing that comes off quite well. The most interesting thing about Bruce Hamilton's rhythmic study Raptures of Undream is its title, while Kevin Erickson's At the Dawn of War makes an effectively exciting and militant conclusion to the disc. It's dedicated to the victims of 9/11, and you kind of wish it wasn't and that the composer had refrained from mentioning the fact.


The performances are uniformly brilliant, even stunning, full of nuance and (believe it or not) sensitivity, particularly in the two Wilkins items and the third-movement nocturne of Houston Strokes. I was also impressed by engineering that picks up the merest whisper of pianissimo against a perfectly silent background but leaves plenty of room for the climaxes to register with full impact. In short, you may not like everything here, but it is an intelligently planned, thought-provoking, and often captivating disc, extremely well-realized in all respects and packed with more variety than you probably thought possible.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Surge by Rob Smith
Conductor:  Blake Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Houston Percussion Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2003 
2.
Houston Strokes by Donald Grantham
Conductor:  Blake Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Houston Percussion Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
3.
Melos by Blake Wilkins
Conductor:  Blake Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Houston Percussion Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2003 
4.
Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Blake Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Houston Percussion Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910/1919; England 
Notes: Arranger: Blake Wilkins. 
5.
Raptures of Undream by Bruce Hamilton
Conductor:  Blake Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Houston Percussion Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
6.
At the Dawn of War by Kevin Erickson
Conductor:  Blake Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Houston Percussion Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 

Sound Samples

Surge
Houston Strokes: I. -
Houston Strokes: II. -
Houston Strokes: III. -
Houston Strokes: IV. -
Melos
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (arr. for percussion ensemble): Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis (arr. for percussion ensemble)
Raptures of Undream
At the Dawn of War

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