Russell Peck, Brahms’ “Requiem,” Bring Life, Vitality to Evening Concert

Often, it’s the drummer in the band that receives the loudest cheers. After all, he or she is the one that keeps everyone working in unison. And let’s admit—beating on a drum and making noise can be a lot of fun. How else were we going to drive our parents crazy?

But when you see percussion instruments at the front of the stage of a symphony, you know you can expect a show.

In the case of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s concert this weekend, led by the spirited Resident Conductor Michael Butterman, the drummers took center (front) stage for awhile with Composer Russell Peck’s* piece, The Glory and the Grandeur, Concerto for Percussion Trio.

The music begins and ends, literally, with a bang.

JSO’s own percussionists, principal Aziz D. Barnard Luce, and Kevin Garry and Jesse Monkman were, in a word: amazing. From the first boom of the drums, it was clear these three worked in absolute harmony with one another. The communication between drums and drummers made for an exciting choreographed showpiece. Peck’s work is meant to “celebrate the natural glitter of percussion.”

The percussionists had their work cut out for them. The intricate piece required them to showcase their talents on multiple instruments—including drums, xylophones and cymbals—and they achieved this by running from one instrument to the other. Neither missed the next beat. The stamina necessary for their workout, combined with teamwork, created an energy that enveloped the orchestra (there were 40 instruments on stage), and spread into the audience. At the final note, the audience leapt to its feet and would have welcomed an encore, but Aziz, Kevin and Jesse seemed pretty tired at the end. Being fabulous two nights in a row (not to mention the Jane Fonda aerobics), would wear on anyone.

Johannes Brahms, 1853

Johannes BrahmsA German Requiem toned down the mood a bit for the second half, but the music was abundant with superb talent. Soprano Janice Chandler-Eteme, Baritone Richard Zeller and the JSO Chorus joined forces to bring to life a piece the non-religious composer meant as a work “for people rather than for God.”** The extensive song (75 minutes) carries us through from mourning and suffering to bliss and resurrection—death to life. Brahms’ ultimate creation was a masterful rendition of his views expressed through gorgeous music. Richard’s deep, rich voice and Janice’s velvet tone reached out to the audience like a pair of loving arms, enfolding everyone in its embrace.

*Note: Peck passed away last year, but his wife visited the JSO for the weekend’s performance.

**Source: JSO Program Notes – Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Upcoming Jacksonville Symphony Performances:
Dec. 4, 2010

Handel’s Messiah

Jan. 7 & 8, 2011
Triple Double
Liszt: Die Ideale (Symphonic Poem No. 12)
Beethoven: Romanze No. 2 in F for Violin and Orchestra
Strauss: Romanze in F for Cello and Orchestra
Brahms: Concerto for Violin and Cello (Double Concerto)
with Augustin Hadelich, violin
Alban Gerhardt, cello

Upcoming Brahms’ Requiem Performances:
May 12 – 15, 2011

Los Angeles Philharmonic
with Christine Schäfer, soprano
Matthias Goerne, baritone
LA Master Chorale

Upcoming Performances by Janice Chandler-Eteme:
Dec. 10 – 12, 2010

Mahler: Symphony no. 2
San Diego Symphony

May 27 & 28, 2011
Strauss: Four Last Songs
Utah Symphony Orchestra

Upcoming Performances by Richard Zeller:
not available

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