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Mike Tetreault’s All-Star Percussion Playlist
By Administrator on September 2, 2016
We asked Colorado Springs Philharmonic percussionist Mike Tetreault: How does participation in an orchestra look from a percussionist’s point of view? What pieces of music really light a fire for you?
Here’s what he told us about his all-time favorites from the classical repertoire. Click on the links to follow along with his listening notes!
- John Williams: “I always say John Williams wrote the soundtrack to my youth, and it’s true. Indiana Jones and Superman and Star Wars and ET… The guy’s remarkable. [Williams’] dad, as well as his brother, are drummers and percussionists in Los Angeles, so his timpani and percussion parts are fantastic. They’re tricky but not mind-numbingly difficult; they’re integral to the texture without being overbearing. They’re really well-thought-out in the sense that [percussion] is not some random thing — when you play, it makes a difference. It’s integrated in a really cohesive way.”
- Claude Debussy’s La Mer: “It has a cymbal part with very little instruction, generally — and every time you play it, you come up with a way to approach it that’s different. This note you play with a two-cymbals crash; this note you play with one cymbal with a soft stick; this note you scrape a metal beater across a cymbal… I’ve heard it done tons of different ways and all of them sound really cool.”
- Maurice Ravel: “He just had a unique gift for orchestration, for percussion especially. He married the traditional uses with really interesting textures. Listen to the second suite from Daphnis and Chloe and the Mother Goose Suite (click the link to see it played at Tetreault’s alma mater, the Eastman School). It’s not functional in the same way that you think of percussion being ‘this is where a drum goes.’ I wouldn’t say it’s outlandish, but you think, ‘There was a cymbal and a triangle and a gong there that I didn’t even notice.’”
- The third movement of Ravel’s piano concerto in G: “There’s a bunch of whip and wood block and it’s awesome.”
- Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana: “It’s uniquely interesting and well-written for percussion. There are essentially six different percussion parts, so you could play the piece a dozen times but never end up playing tambourine, snare drum, whatever.”
- Giacomo Puccini’s operas: “The timpani writing’s really good; the percussion is all good. It doesn’t really get better than Puccini at his best. It’s one of those things I think opera lovers know, but I’d love to get more of it in the concert hall.”
In addition to these recommendations, he surprised us by admitting that Mahler 2 is one of his favorite symphonies — not because of the great percussion parts, but because of the parts where the percussion section shuts down entirely:
“Sometimes there’s nothing better than resting in the middle of all that stuff and being able to soak in everything else,” he explains. “[In] Mahler symphony no. 2, the fourth movement going into the fifth movement, there’s a mezzo soprano solo that’s just astonishing. To be involved in the third and then to be integrally involved in the fifth movement is fantastic, but to not be involved for a time, and to be separated from it but still inside of it… that’s when you love counting rests.”
By Claire Swinford