Dame Evelyn Glennie

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 September, 2010, 12:00am

Dame Evelyn Glennie
City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong HK
City Hall Concert Hall
Reviewed: Sep 25

The orchestra's new season opened on Saturday with Dame Evelyn Glennie, the Scottish percussionist who has earned her iconic status by maintaining a technical and interpretive brilliance despite a hearing impairment since childhood. She's a consummate communicator who plays with a joy that lives for the moment, something impossible for an audience to resist.

The performance of her own arrangement for vibraphone of Vivaldi's Concerto for Sopranino Recorder made two points: first, well-constructed music has a degree of indestructibility, making such an unlikely transcription possible; second, Glennie's ability to tenderly articulate the slow movement is probably without peer.

Her encores were far from exercises in percussive bling that might have been used to blow us away. The first, Prim for solo snare drum by Askell Masson, demonstrated not only Glennie's mastery of control over such an ostensibly limited resource, but also how a composer's sense of tight organisation and fertile imagination can suck an audience into rapt attention.

The same skills were difficult to find in Joe Duddell's Snowblind for solo percussion and strings or Alexis Alrich's 3-movement Marimba Concerto, which is reckoned to demonstrate something called 'California Impressionism'. I don't know if California has wide open plains dotted with tepee reservations, but that's what the outer movements suggested, built on uninspired motivic repetition that took us on a meandering journey. Snowblind aped baroque practices such as monorhythmic continuance and limited manipulation of dynamics, but took few steps outside the box to give us something memorable.

Frank Bridge's Sir Roger de Coverley for strings was an astute choice for the opener, brimming with details, cleverly spliced together and brought to the fore in a well-paced, sensitively balanced reading.