Martin Grubinger’s last concert: the drummer ended his career
Again something new in the Philharmonie! Daníel Bjarnason’s drum concert, which premiered last November, gave drum icon Martin Grubinger two last concerts in Berlin. With his 40th birthday, the “acrobatic virtuoso” completes an unprecedented stage career and breaks with the terrible “play until you drop” trend of prominent colleagues.
The farewell, which was planned early on, is understandable: Grubinger’s performances demand top mental and physical performance, especially as they are mostly played without grades. The Austrian leaves behind a great legacy, having established the figure of the modern multi-percussionist. The few decades young, new genre of the percussion concerto was only established by him with over 30 newly performed works in the concert world. From then on, Grubinger will continue to work as a teacher at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.
The encore “has nothing to do with music”
On Saturday nothing seemed like a (before) last concert. Grubinger sparkles with agility and shows what makes a great soloist far removed from technical acrobatics. He gets along with the audience, explains jokingly that his encore is “sport” and has “nothing to do with music”. The improvisation and paradiddle lecture on the “Marching Drum” is able to almost evoke reminiscences of an extinct concert culture with lots of wink and heckling, which lifts the hall out of its seats with loud cheers.
How aptly the demonic virtuosity of the “primordial musician” unfolded in Bjarnason’s drum concerto nicknamed “Inferno”. For the Icelandic composer, “(the protagonist) dances and sings while the whole world collapses around him.” In addition to the musical charms, the performative charms are particularly captivating. The marvelous armada of percussion instruments, from which Grubinger unleashes a spectrum of distinctive veils of sound through to clapping, roaring or screeching, is carried into the orchestra by the lavishly cast percussion group. After the first movement, which is dominated by the marimba and txalaparta, a Basque sound bar instrument, the second exhibits an opulent trio of timpani.
The drum concert is nicknamed “Inferno”
Richly covered with musical references, the entertaining piece, which will certainly receive a well-deserved place in the repertoire, brings not only echoes of Saint-Saëns, a neoclassical Stravinsky, but also Nils Frahm or Max Richter, a chorale finale with “Dies irae” quotations.
The infernal remains with the abruptly set original version of Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” beyond the break. Andris Poga confidently leads the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester with a self-made compilation of the ballet suite “Romeo and Juliet” by Prokofiev.
The native Latvian brings two Russian composers to the stage: a valuable gesture in times of omnipresent cancel culture in the cultural sector. Once again, the DSO not only meets the demands of contemporary program culture, but also boasts a familiar, youthful, lively musical quality.
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