the Stroma quartet performed Frank Zappa's 'The Black Page No.2' in concert, March 2002.
Billed as a high energy event, the intention behind this
concert was that "changing certain concert giving habits and adding quick
variation of moods would give the listener a sense of excitement". There was
certainly a sense of excitement and energy, though that probably came from the
fact that it was a concert of interesting works, played well.
Some of the visual element seemed superfluous - drifting shapes on a screen don't add much to good music, though David Downes's three video pieces were visually intriguing in themselves. The lighting used to highlight the performers in Don McGlashan's Work Songs was also effective at enhancing the percussion choreography. Percussion group Strike were in good form in this work, doing what they do best. The two world premiere performances in the programme both featured the Portuguese percussionist Pedro Carneiro in a solo role. Ends Meet by Luis Tinoco, for marimba and string quartet, was notable for its delicate, minimalist textures and controlled energy, and almost Schönberg-like melodic lines. The quartet from Stroma was a good match for the soloist.
Psyzygyzm by John Psathas was a very different piece, combining a wide range of styles - noisy percussion, ethnic melodies, big band sounds, atmospherics, and more. The individual sections worked well, and some were very beautiful, but the overall connection between sections was not totally convincing. Of the other works played, Frank Zappa's The Black Page #2 made an interesting cross-over piece: take away the underlying beat and the rest could easily fit into one of Stroma's normal contemporary classical concerts. And the rhythmic layering and complexity of Xenakis's Rebonds B for solo percussionist and Steve Reich's Nagoya Marimbas for two marimba players were noticeably more engaging to the ear than the more easy-listening style of Joseph Schwantner's marimba work Velocities.
- Jane Dawson, The Dominion, 13 March 2002