A Hint of World Music in a Fascinating Aural Adventure

United StatesUnited States Gottry, Tomasi, Farr, Hasenpflug, Harrison, Culligan, Piazzolla: Katherine DeJongh (flute), Matthew Beck (marimba and percussion), Canton Symphony Orchestra Principals, Cable Recital Hall, Canton, Ohio, 11.1.2013

Josh Gottry: Foundations
Henri Tomasi: Le Tombeau de Mireille
Gareth Farr: Kembang Suling: Three Musical Snapshots of Asia
Thom Hasenpflug: Third Dance for Marimba
Lou Harrison: First Concerto for Flute and Percussion
Michael Culligan: Due Northwest
Astor Piazzolla: L’Histoire du Tango: Bordel 1900

The January 11 Casual Series chamber concert by the Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO) at Cable Recital Hall was an utterly fascinating aural adventure. Principal CSO Flutist Katherine DeJongh and CSO Principal Percussionist Matthew Beck combined their remarkable skills to deliver a captivating program with scintillating textures, intriguing melodies, and infectious rhythms.

Two of the seven works were duets for flute and percussion: Henri Tomasi’s Le Tombeau de Mireille, and Lou Harrison’s First Concerto for Flute and Percussion. The Tomasi piece, with Beck steady on drum and DeJongh pure and piercing on piccolo, is at many junctures a frolicsome dance, and at others a slow, solemn march. The performance conjured the spirit of medieval troubadors traversing the French countryside.

The very short Harrison concerto, composed in 1939, is comparatively less stark and far richer in its array of percussive effects—which were unconventional for their day. Here Beck, along with playing a set of graduated drums, included a Nigerian ankle rattle and lead pipe as part of his arsenal. The slow middle movement was more cumbersome and ponderous than poignant, though the outer movements were played with notable vigor, as indicated by the composer’s notations: “Earnest, Fresh and Fastish” for the first movement, and “Strong, Swinging and Fastish” for the third.

Mr. Beck’s solo in Third Dance for Marimba (1989) by Thom Hasenpflugwas a thoroughly delightful demonstration of the instrument’s sonorous versatility and otherwise a virtuosic tour-de-force. Even more colorful and engaging were the duets for flute and marimba.

Foundations (1997), by Josh Gottry, was infused with hypnotic passages wherein Beck’s facile touch created a gentle pulsing or subtle drone, over which DeJongh’s articulate flute alternately hovered and soared. Likewise, Michael Culligan’s Due Northwest (2009) was a splendid vehicle for sprightly lyricism and crisp counterpoint between the two superbly gifted musicians.

Throughout the entire evening, the spirit of World Music was evident in varying degrees. In Astor Piazzolla’s L’Histoire du Tango, the initialBordel 1900”wascertainly a hot and frisky way to close out the concert (with the original guitar part effectively played on marimba). But interestingly enough, the most compelling and riveting performance came earlier with Gareth Farr’s 1996 Kembang Suling: Three Musical Snapshots of Asia.

In the openingBali” movement, flute and marimba created a haunting whisper with their uncanny unity. Then, a pulse slowly emerged—as if from a shimmering mist—and became an increasingly intense battle as each instrument vied for supremacy. In the second section, “Japan,” the marimba again became a ghostly drone—a tonal shadow that beautifully complemented the wisps from the flute. The finalIndia”was a breathtaking and complex journey into intertwined rhythms and pentatonic melodies. In its consistent intensity—mesmerizing and joyously exotic—Farr’s work embodied the evening’s best aspects.

Tom Wachunas