Percy Grainger Tuneful Percussion (complete)

MOVE MD 3222
TPT: 00: 51:20

   reviewed by Neville Cohn 

Woof! is made up of four versatile, focussed young percussionists who seem positively to revel in this constantly diverting music. Old favourites such as “Country Gardens”, “Shepherd’s Hey” and “Irish Tune” (Danny Boy) sound here freshly minted, engaging reincarnations of little compositions that have a secure place in the affections of thousands. In 1998, Woof! discovered, or re-discovered, Grainger’s so-called tuneful percussion instruments which after decades of silence can again be heard played by musicians who clearly know exactly what they are doing – and do it very well. There are, as well, a host of other performers – variously on strings, flute, piccolo and harp as well as solo and ensemble singers (members of the Osmond College choir) – who contribute to one of the most engaging CDs I’ve encountered in years. Blithe Bells is a delight, with its webs of glowing vibraphone tone contriving to sound both exotic and tranquil. Another haunting miniature is Bahariyale V. Palaniyundi, scored for harmonium, a set of Indian bells – and various drums tapped discreetly and hypnotically. A marimba ensemble offers Sailor Song, a jolly, irresistibly whistleable Grainger original.

Although Grainger grew to despise his hugely popular setting of Country Gardens (claiming that most English gardens grew vegetables rather than flowers). “So you can think of turnips as I play it”, he once bitterly remarked. An arrangement for “hammerwood foursome” is divertingly jaunty, sounding for all the world like an inspired child’s toy orchestra. At the other end of the emotional scale is “The Lonely Desert Man sees the Tents of the Happy Tribes”, a setting of nonsense syllables sung in an unsettlingly forced tone that sounds the essence of a terrible melancholy. There are fascinating liner notes by Alessandro Servadei.


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