I attended an enjoyable Sunday performance of the Santa Rosa Symphony yesterday. The program included Christopher Rouse's Der Gerettete Alberich (Fantasy for Percussion and Orchestra), featuring Allen Biggs on percussion, Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. The guest conductor was Barry Jekowsky.
Although my grasp of Wagner isn't good enough to have appreciated all the allusions in the orchestral part, I enjoyed the highly inventive music, which is sometimes raucous, sometimes soft and sweet, and frequently surprising--particularly when the soloist, Biggs (pictured above), suddenly starts playing on what looks like a standard rock and roll drum set and the piece suddenly veers into the realm of pop music, momentarily. And why not?
Having said that, the volume of the percussion in some of the earlier sections seemed to overwhelm the accompaniment. There were entire passages during which the strings were effectively inaudible. The music seemed most effective when the two elements were better integrated--when Biggs played softly with his hands (rather than with sticks), when he played the marimba (especially against the backdrop of a haunting oboe solo), or in the later sections of the piece when the orchestra was playing loudly enough to stand up to the percussion. Still, this was fun and the audience was very appreciative.
(Performer publicity photos courtesy of the Santa Rosa Symphony.)