February 7, 2011
By SCOTT CANTRELL
Classical Music Critic
More on this story The audience fairly exploded Saturday night in the most uproarious ovation I can remember at a Dallas Symphony Orchestra classical concert. It came at the end of a new work for “world percussion” and orchestra by Stewart Copeland — yes, that Stewart Copeland, former drummer of the rock band The Police.
Titled Gamelan D’Drum, the 37-minute, three-movement piece was commissioned by the DSO for the local percussion ensemble D’Drum. In addition to DSO percussionists Doug Howard and Ron Snider, the group includes John Bryant, Jamal Mohamed and Ed Smith.
Saturday’s performance, at the Meyerson Sympony Center, was the only one of a program whose Thursday and Friday dates were cancelled because of unusually wintry weather. It’s a tribute to DSO musicians and music director Jaap van Zweden, as well as D’Drum, that a tricky piece was capably assembled on a shortened rehearsal schedule.
The Meyerson’s stage extension was filled with a wide variety of drums, gongs, marimbas, even a cimbalom (a hammered dulcimer), representing ethnic traditions as varied as Balinese, African, Turkish and Hungarian.
Having studied D’Drum’s complement of instruments, Copeland gives the players plenty to show off, including opportunities for improvisation. The music sometimes echoes Javanese and Balinese gamelans, with their hypnotic patterns on hung and kettle gongs, sometimes the intensity of African drumming. Mohamed put on a particularly brilliant display of drumming at the start of the third movement, the placement of his hands varying both pitch and timbre.
Repetitive rhythms and jabbing syncopations whip up tremendous energy, and many a head in the audience could be seen enthusiastically bobbing. The second movement, by contrast, opens with tropical-jungle rustles, rattles and bird calls.
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