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Music Review

Rhythm and texture cap the season for Dinosaur Annex

Percussionist Robert Schulz, pictured in performance two years ago. Percussionist Robert Schulz, pictured in performance two years ago. (clive grainger/file 2006)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By David Weininger
Globe Correspondent / May 22, 2008

Reprinted from late editions of yesterday's Globe.

In the 20th century, the percussion section emerged from its limited function in the orchestra to become a full-fledged participant in solo and chamber works. It's a trend that has continued into the 21st century, making it an apt subject for Dinosaur Annex's season-ending concert, "Percussion Concussion." Six unusual works - four solos and two duets - were in the hands of the ensemble's superb percussionist, Robert Schulz.

The concert opened with Scott Lindroth's "Bell Plates," for percussion and electronics. What began as a hesitant exchange between drums and samples eventually blossomed into a busy and colorful contrapuntal interplay. Furtive patterns could be glimpsed as the sounds ricocheted off one another.

The two pieces that followed were as close as the program got to standard repertoire. Morton Feldman's mesmerizing "The King of Denmark" is a series of whispery sounds played on a huge variety of instruments. It was so quiet that the music almost seemed to negate itself in performance. By contrast, Iannis Xenakis's "Rebonds" is a tightly coordinated flurry of moving parts. Written for drums and woodblocks, it featured complex, driving rhythms that were continually knocked sideways by offbeat intrusions.

The second half began with Lisa Bielawa's "Synopsis #11: It Takes One to Know One." On a basic drum kit, Schulz played sly, off-kilter rhythms while intoning a text composed of things the composer had heard in public places relating, as the notes put it, to "Xenophobia/Mistrust/Malevolence." It's a darkly amusing piece, alternately humorous and disquieting.

Amy Williams's haunting "Cineshape 1" for alto flute and percussion was inspired by a Korean film about a woman sentenced to death for refusing a governor's advances. Flute melodies, breathy and agitated, wound around pointillist comments from a large bass drum and tiny cymbals. While the music's structure doesn't mimic the film's plot, it has its own narrative shape, building in intensity and quickly subsiding.

The closer was David Baker's "Singers of Songs, Weavers of Dreams" for cello and percussion. Each of the piece's seven movements pays tribute to a great African-American musician. While not all of the movements are equally convincing, those dedicated to Miles Davis and Duke Ellington were intricately constructed dialogues of long melodies set against lightly scored percussion.

Schulz rendered everything on this highly diverse program with phenomenal grace and control over both rhythm and texture. His able partners in the Williams and Baker pieces were flutist Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin and cellist David Russell, respectively.

Dinosaur Annex

At: First Church in Boston, Sunday

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