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The programme began with a zestful percussion solo, 'To Mimi' by Menachem Wizenberg, a leading contemporary composer in Israel, which exploits a vast palette of colour with metallic, wood, cymbal and bell effects, enmeshed in intricate polyphony and dramatic uses of silences and rhythmic patterns. Then, with his ebullient and exuberant stage style, Zimbalista introduced the centrepiece, the UK première of Wizenberg's Quintet, one of several new works, alongside several concertos, composed for Zimbalista. Wizenberg's piece, exploiting the ensemble possibilities to the full, was both expressive and entertaining.

The first movement begins with marimba virtuosity, rapid scale passages, riveting cross rhythms and syncopations. The Quartet joins with off beat chords. Then there is a concerto-like dialogue until the quartet gradually increases in density and the role becomes more important, with longer stretches of syncopated textures, while the Marimba's solos expand, at one point doubling strings in a tremolando, and then in dialogue.

A very expressive quiet section leads to the climax -- a percussion cadenza, mainly for marimba, in which Zimbalista's virtuosity is given full reign, with a 'melodic', fugue-like polyphony building up on non-pitch instruments, also using just hands and then fingers and concluding with a poetic, soft passage. It forms a smooth link to the reflective 'slow movement', with vibraphone, bells and woodblocks, with sparser support from the Quartet, creating an eerie, glittery, space-age soundscape. The finale is a headlong, moto perpetuo tarantella in additive rhythms, the marimba's breackneck acceleration echoed by the quartet: the unisono final phrase for the quintet was breathtaking.

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Copyright © 30 January 2002 Malcolm Miller, London, UK






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