Review in "Percussive Notes"
The Journal of the Percussive Arts Society

In the year 2000 a timpani wave was started by Jim Brown, Principal Timpanist of the Savannah Symphony Orchestra and composer Russell Peck. I am speaking of "Harmonic Rhythm," a concerto for timpani and orchestra performed by 39 orchestras.

The concerto opens with a crescendoed low-D roll, which leads into a massive statement by the orchestra, setting the stage for what is to follow - much like a curtain opening for a play. There are four sections to the composition: Section I is melodic and centers around the development of the melodic material. Section II is quite rhythmic and climaxes in a technical display of three-mallet playing. Section III is slow and uses such effects as dead strokes, brushes and wood mallets. Section IV returns to a more rapid rhythmic display with a brief harmonic quasi cadenza that leads to a dramatic ending.

The concerto is written for four standard pedal drums plus a piccolo drum that may be the hand-tuned type. Besides the orchestration there is a piano reduction that would be perfect for a percussion recital.

"Harmonic Rhythm" represents not only the rhythmic and dynamic qualities of timpani but also their melodic qualities. Peck understands the instrument both for its potential and its limits. I can't help but think that Jim Brown helped a bit here. From the opening roll to the thundering ending, Peck challenges the player musically and technically and has composed a concerto with rewards for the performer and audience.

-John H. Beck

Reprinted by permission of the Percussive Arts Society, Inc., 701 NW Ferris Ave., Lawton, OK 73507-5442

Harmonic Rhythm Link