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Music review: Evelyn Glennie and Maya Beiser at UCLA’s Royce Hall

November 12, 2011 |  2:52 pm

370-Glennie & Beiser_UCLA Live_5x
Two extraordinary musicians, American cellist Maya Beiser and Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie, shared a program at UCLA's Royce Hall on Friday. Beiser and her ensemble performed in the first half; Glennie soloed in the second. They joined each other at the end for “Stuttered Chant,” a new short work written for them by David Lang.

It was an interesting experiment. Depending on your point of view, Beiser and Glennie as concert partners were either good value –- an amazing twofer -– or an odd, overflowing juxtaposition of contrasting temperaments and styles.

The turnout in the big hall felt sparse, and audience members were encouraged to move closer to the stage. Beiser and her ensemble -– Bassam Saba, oud; Shane Shanahan and Matt Kilmer, percussion -– performed all five works on her 2010 album, “Provenance,” nearly an hour of evocative, melancholy and emotional Middle Eastern music filtered through Beiser’s Western classical sensibility.

The cellist’s richly flavorful, idiomatic vibrato was just one of many delights in Kayhan Kalhor’s “I Was There,” composed for Beiser. Her half of the show ended with a restrained account of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” arranged for multi-track cello. Perhaps Beiser, who had prepared an encore, was being careful not to step on Glennie's upcoming set. In any case, modest applause did not generate one.

After intermission, Glennie performed eight works for various instruments, including marimba. It was a satisfying concert by itself. At one point, the percussionist, who was playing a waterphone, an instrument held by its cylindrical neck and made of rods sticking up from a resonator bowl that can be struck or bowed, walked off stage. The piece was her own "waterphone improvisation," and Glennie disappeared as the crystal-like, deeply resonant sound diminished.

Lang, a founding member of the new music ensemble Bang on a Can (Beiser was its founding cellist), wrote “Stuttered Chant” –- the composer calls it “a strange little encore” -– for them. It was indeed strange and fun, with Glennie sitting on the floor rapping on a recumbent cello with two small mallets, while Beiser’s short, abrupt attacks offered a compelling percussive intensity all its own.

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David Lang's divine pursuit: 'The Little Match Girl Passion'

--Rick Schultz

Photo: Maya Beiser, left, and Evelyn Glennie at UCLA. Credit: Reed Hutchinson

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