The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Beautifully crafted accounts of new string concertos
Musicians: Carolyn Stuart* (violin) John Graham†  (viola) Scott Kluksdahl‡ (cello) Dee Moses¶ (double bass) Haiqiong Deng** (zheng) McCormick Percussion Group/Robert McCormick
Composer: Sekhon, Saunders Smith, Liptak, Timpson, D. Adams

There’s a small but slowly growing repertoire of pieces for the unusual combination of string soloist and percussion ensemble, and if the five examples on this enjoyable disc are anything to go by, it’s a mix that can bring rich rewards to players and listeners alike.

The music here is gratifyingly diverse, beginning with the easy-going melodies of Baljinder Sekhon’s Lou, which pay affectionate homage to American composer Lou Harrison and receive a nimble yet determined performance from cellist Scott Kluksdahl. Michael Sidney Timpson’s fun-filled Dongxidongxi, for Chinese zheng zither and percussion, draws inspiration from Disney, Korean pop and US marching bands.

Stuart Saunders Smith’s Nightshade has a sense of dangerous beauty, its glittering percussion and slithery violin lines befitting the strongly scented narcotic plant of its title, although soloist Carolyn Stuart is a little underpowered. David Liptak’s Concerto for viola and percussion is the perfect vehicle for John Graham’s expressive playing, its evocative first movement in particular, entitled ‘August Snow’, showcasing the violist’s wonderfully flexible vibrato and multi-hued tone. And bassist Dee Moses is a committed soloist in Daniel Adams’s Camouflage, moving in and out of unusual bass effects, to merge with (or stand in contrast to) his bubbling percussion backdrop.

The real stars of the disc, though, are the McCormick Percussion Group players, who under Robert McCormick, music professor at the University of South Florida, give subtle, beautifully crafted performances throughout. Recorded sound is bright but truthful.

David Kettle