On July 3, the very excellent percussionist, Sam Solomon, presented a Boston University Tangelwood Institute (BUTI) faculty recital at Trinity Church in Lenox (Ma). His program included pieces by Nico Muhly, Eric Hewitt, Michael Early, David T. Little, Marcos Balter, and Judd Greenstein, two of them–Hewitt and Early–first performances. Due to the circumstances, the place was packed with attentive and enthusiatic teenagers, although that doesn’t mean that such a demographic wouldn’t necessarily show up to such a performance somewhere else, given how exciting and entertaining this one was.
Every one of the pieces was thoughtfully made and impressively and interestingly executed, and every one was snappy and enjoyable to listen to, and, I suppose, to watch, although my own sight lines weren’t all that good. Anyone of them, by itself, would have impressed me a fair amount. I found myself thinking, though, that, just as just about every piece for harp, flute, and one or two strings seems to suggest that Debussy figured out almost everything that could be done with the combination and did it a while ago, and therefore just about every piece ends up sounding a little like the Debussy sonata, every piece for percussion has a similar kind of strategy and intention. Each had its point, including the peppy beginning of the Muhly, the slightly random, water dripping in the sink, first section of the Early, and the general spashiness of the Balter. David T. Little’s Three Sams concentrated first on pitches in (—)I Am (a very engaging line with unexpected and enjoyable twists and turns, then on non pitched elements, especially cymbals and drums in the dark and angry Son of (—), and then combined them in the slow and mournful Wicked Uncle (—), with the pitched elements suggesting the ghosts of half remembered half recognizable hymns and patriotic songs. Judd Greenstein’s biblically titled We Shall Be Turned, was perhaps the most memorable for being the quietest and most meditative of the pieces, starting with a simple pattern and returning to it again as the starting point for each of its increasingly longer and most complex discourses.
Sam Solomon’s performance was elegant, eloquent, and full of pazazz. He played each of the pieces as though it was the most important thing in the world. It was wonderful to hear. The recital, at just about a hour without an intermission, was exactly the right length.