Internationally-acclaimed Scottish percussionist to make local debut

Internationally known percussionist Colin Currie will make his Oklahoma City Philharmonic debut in a performance of Jennifer Higdon's “Percussion Concerto.”
BY RICK ROGERS rrogers@opubco.com Modified: January 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm •  Published: January 27, 2013

Because of the high costs involved in commissioning any new piece of music today, it's not unusual for a consortium of orchestras to share the cost. Another benefit is that a new piece of music gets multiple hearings instead of one or two. Not surprisingly, the concerto repertoire (for all instruments) is burgeoning with many new works that fall into obscurity after their premieres.

“Obviously, with the more well-known composers — Jennifer is incredibly popular, for example — it is proportionally easier to get subsequent performances,” Currie said. “If the quality is there and I have a piece that I believe in and I feel is worth hearing repeatedly, then it will get a chance to be heard.

“I must say I feel very good about the concertos that I've premiered which now number over 20. Of those pieces, the vast majority have gone on to have life after the premieres. The Higdon is a very proud example because I've played that piece on average once a month, every month since the work's premiere in November 2005. That is one that is already a classic.

“I think we're in a key stage today where the repertoire needs composers and performers to secure the advances made in the past two decades. It's a time of consolidation for the art form and a time to make extra sure that every concert is a good one and that the pieces we play have artistic depth.”

When one considers that percussionists are a new breed of solo artists, it's not surprising that their repertoire consists entirely of works written during the past half century. As with any musical artist, the concert percussionist's career is shaped by the available repertoire.

“I think composers are well aware of this,” Currie said. “It's been question of getting some excellent new music to play or go home. The impetus has come from the vacuum if you like, but at the same time I would probably choose to do this in any case since contemporary music is my overriding passion in terms of the music I perform.

“I make no apology or any kind of disguise about the fact that that's what I would bring to an orchestra. It requires the audience to meet the repertoire half way and most people in the room will be hearing the piece for the first time.

“I hope that especially with percussion, the immediacy of the art form is something that helps bring it to life in real time. If a performance captures someone's imagination, it could be a springboard to further investigation or seeking out other similar works, either in live performance or on recording. It's an entirely positive situation.”

Titled “Motion & Emotion,” this classics concert will also feature Aaron Copland's “Fanfare for the Common Man” and excerpts from Tchaikovsky's ballet “Swan Lake.” Music director Joel Levine will conduct.

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