Whitacre: Marimba Quartets / Burgess, Farrer, Wilson, Huggan

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This truly unique recording for Signum sees Joby Burgess arrange some of Eric Whitacre’s ever-popular choral works for Marimba quartet. The warm, earthy sound of the marimbas makes for a spectacular record. One of Britain’s most diverse percussionists, Joby Burgess is best known for his virtuosic performances, daring collaborations, extensive education work, and regular appearances throughout Europe, the USA and beyond. Dedicated to the development of the percussion repertoire, often in combination with electronics, Joby spends much of his time commissioning and recording new music. Recent highlights have included the release Gabriel Prokofiev’s Bass Drum Concerto with the Ural Philharmonic Orchestra on Signum Records, ‘PUNKIT’ – an adventurous participatory project for massed percussion ensemble by Stephen Deazley, and ‘Pioneers of Percussion’ – a solo recital programme featuring new work by Nicol Lizée, Linda Buckley and Rebecca Dale.



Anyone who knows Eric Whitacre’s choral works will doubtless have been struck by their supremely lush harmonies and overall gorgeous sounds. With these clever arrangements of some of them for various combinations of marimbas and vibraphones, with either two or four instruments being employed, Joby Burgess has managed to breathe new life into what will I’m sure become timeless works. Who knows perhaps this opens the way to treating these pieces to the same kind of arrangements that has been the case for Arvo Pärt’s Fratres which shows that the same music can sound quite different when passed through the prism of varied and different instruments, each one equally valid in its own right.

Marimbas have that ethereal almost unworldly sound that so perfectly matches the similar qualities found in Whitacre’s music. In Lux Aurumque (Light, warm and heavy as pure gold) one can almost feel the warmth while similar aural textures come to the fore in October which describes the colours of autumn again with palpable luminosity. One of the features of marimbas and vibraphones is the resonance that comes from the sustained note that lingers after being hit adding to its other worldly sound.

A Boy and a Girl is played in short passages which serve up another way of hearing these evocative instruments and Sleep rounds off an experience that is quite unique and almost defies description; this is music that must be heard since words cannot do it the justice it deserves. The composer is quoted as saying that Joby Burgess is a “musical genius” in achieving “these really clever, beautiful arrangements” and I couldn’t agree more. At less than 22 minutes this is a very short programme but the asking price is commensurate with its length so if you are a marimba fan I can confidently predict you will love this sumptuous sounding disc.

– MusicWeb International (Steve Arloff)

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: SIGCD625

  • UPC: 635212062524

  • Label: Signum Classics