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Percussive Counterpoint / Svet Stoyanov

Svet Stoyanov, Percussion
Release Date: 12/23/2008 
Label:  Concert Artists Guild   Catalog #: 103   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Svet StoyanovAlejandro ViñaoEric SammutJames Wood,   ... 
Performer:  Svet StoyanovMoni Simeonov
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

PERCUSSIVE COUNTERPOINT & Svet Stoyanov (perc); Moni Simeonov (vn); 1 Kevin Dufford, James Deitz (perc) 2 CONCERT ARTISTS GUILD 103 (57:53)

REICH Electric Counterpoint. STOYANOV Improvisation for Bulgarian Tapan. VIÑAO Khan Variations. Read more WOOD Rogosanti. SAMMUT Four Rotations. LANSKY Hop. 1

Electric Counterpoint (in three movements: fast, slow, fast) is classic Steve Reich minimalism. The opening rise and fall, as of waves approaching and receding, gives way to the pulsating figures I think of as identifying characteristics of the style. “Minimal” changes as the figures progress add variety. The underlying drone that’s sometimes audible, the kalimba-like sounds, and the occasional Japanese aura clearly show the influence of Reich’s studies of non-Western music. The first Fast segues directly into Slow, which sounds more Balinese, with gentle, chiming effects. Repetitions of one note give it a rapid pulse in places; it’s really only slow in contrast to the first movement’s tempo, making it more an andante than an adagio. The concluding movement dances in, to me, more of an American way, but there’s a consistent compositional process audible throughout the three movements. Some slowly rotating harmonies (primarily in the middle section) add an additional element to the primary melodic and rhythmic focus. In the right frame of mind, i.e., relaxed, open, without expectations of “classical” argument, Electric Counterpoint is captivating and quite pretty.

Svet Stoyanov’s Improvisation alternates the deep sound of the Bulgarian tapan—a drum with which I’m not familiar that sounds a bit like a timpani, although I imagine it’s smaller and held by the player—with raps and clicks probably created by hitting peripheral parts of the drum with a variety of stick or finger techniques. A crackling counterpoint, a trifle reminiscent of castanets, is the result. And of course, in the absence of any fixed tones, the rhythmic aspect is paramount. It’s short (2:09) and doesn’t wear out its welcome.

James Wood’s Rogosanti takes a similar approach in that it makes much of contrasting timbres, in this case deep percussion and light metallic chiming from an instrument that sounds like a triangle, only softer and capable of playing different pitches. A recessed but intense voice—the percussionist?—adds Monkey Chant-like explosions, which conjure a ritualistic scenario.

Alejandro Viñao’s Khan Variations is rhythmically assertive as opposed to pulsing in the minimalist way. Very soft playing in the middle section gives way to music that bubbles along more than in the introduction even as it brings back some of that initial material. The title seems to place the inspiration for the piece somewhere in Central Asia but the music strikes me more as an impression than a stylistic recreation.

Eric Sammut’s Four Rotations is smoothly melodic and appealing. Rotation 1 drifts into Arabic territory and Stoyanov beautifully separates Rotation 2 ’s theme from its surrounding accompanying figures. Rotation 4 takes a different approach from the rest of the set, sounding almost like a conventional jazz song. Paul Lansky’s Hop begins with a soft marimba-only introduction, after which the violin (evocatively played by Moni Simeonov) joins in; perhaps the title refers to the ensuing, slightly staggering, “hopping” rhythm. A lyrical, Appalachian (?) episode follows that becomes a sort of exotic hoedown. Later there’s a bluesy section that reinforces the American connection. There’s a genuine thematic dialogue throughout much of the piece; the marimba is not merely an accompanying instrument but a full partner. As the music evolves the softer introductory material returns and the piece ends with the same sort of delicate, spare marimba sounds with which it began.

The CD comes with a video extra of Stoyanov and two other percussionists playing Thierry de Mey’s Musique de table. (You can watch it if your computer is equipped with the latest QuickTime software.) This is a theatrical and witty piece with strong echoes of Japanese puppet plays in which the puppeteers are dressed in black to be “invisible” to the audience. Here, only the hands of the players and the small “tables” of the title are illuminated so that the hands and “instruments” float in space. In this way the audience automatically concentrates as much on the players’ carefully choreographed hand movements as on the music. The tables look like butcher blocks about a foot and a half square, and the musicians play them by stroking the tops, using their fists, and performing intricate finger movements across the surface to generate a mixture of textures and rhythms. It’s a nice bonus to an excellent CD.

Percussive Counterpoint seems to me to have multiple meanings, at once referring to the juxtaposition of styles as well as to the internal counterpoint of any one composition and perhaps to the contrast in percussion timbres that some of the music explores. Stoyanov is a versatile player whose effortless virtuosity adapts itself completely to each composer’s form of expression. Together with his equally accomplished colleagues he’s recorded a varied and highly enjoyable selection of contemporary percussion repertoire that should appeal to a wide range of listeners. Recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Schulslaper
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Works on This Recording

Improvisation for Bulgarian tapan by Svet Stoyanov
Performer:  Svet Stoyanov (Percussion)
Length: 2 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Khan Variations, for solo marimba by Alejandro Viñao
Performer:  Svet Stoyanov (Percussion)
Written: 2001 
Length: 9 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Rotations (4), for marimba by Eric Sammut
Performer:  Svet Stoyanov (Percussion)
Written: 1994-1995 
Length: 9 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Rogosanti, for solo percussion by James Wood
Performer:  Svet Stoyanov (Percussion)
Period: Contemporary 
Length: 10 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Hop, for marimba & violin by Paul Lansky
Performer:  Svet Stoyanov (Percussion), Moni Simeonov (Violin)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1993 
Length: 10 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Electric Counterpoint, for electric guitar, bass guitar & tape by Steve Reich
Performer:  Svet Stoyanov (Percussion)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1987; United States of Ame 
Length: 14 Minutes 24 Secs. 

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