Hey Zeus

There’s not much biographical information to be found about the Spanish composer Jesús Rueda. (Not to be confused with the Spanish footballer by the same name whose bio info is easy to come by.) He’s written an array of music for orchestra, piano, chamber groups, even electronic and one opera. So, I’m left with only his music from one recording to evaluate. But that’s enough. No, no, I haven’t had enough, it’s enough to know I want to get to know more of his music. This recording, Pocket Paradise, named for the first piece on the CD, is a collection of all but one of his works for percussion.

Each of the five movements of the title piece centers around an instrument group. The first movement begins with body percussion, claps, slaps, snaps, and stomps, along with vocal shushes. Other typical percussion instruments are intermixed as it develops. The second is dominated by the hollow woody sounds of log drums and woodblocks. The third follows by using the woody sound of the marimba as a bridge to highlighting other keyboards; vibraphone, chimes, and steel drum donate their sonorities. His use of the steel drum is interesting to note as he approaches the instrument from a decisively percussive angle rather than from its mostly melodic origins in the Caribbean. Movement four transports us to another world with wind and surf-like noises, again followed by marimba as a common link to the the previous sections. Deep fluttering sounds, reminiscent of giant insect wings also accompany the simple three note motif that recurs until it segues into the final movement. “Pocket Paradise” comes full circle in the fifth movement. Initially startling us with crashing drums before bringing in haunting echoes of the first movement’s vocalizations, this time groans instead of shushes. Body percussion also returns alternating with the deep, violent drumming to remind us of where it all began.

The last piece on the CD is “Perpetuum Mobile.” An aptly titled composition of layer upon layer of consecutive, cascading, overlapping descending scales. Beautifully mesmerizing, a perfect ending to complete the concert.

Rueda is unusual as a composer. Most who work successfully with percussion also specialize in it, yet these pieces represent only a small part of his oeuvre. To be so adept with contemporary percussion music makes me curious to hear his other works.

The recording gets an A for its notably full scale dynamics. The performance by the ensemble Drumming, directed by Miguel Bernat, is exemplary. In every way this CD earns a triple A. If you like percussion music also see the previous CD review [Drumming].

(||) Rating — Music : A+ ║ Performance : A ║ Recording : A ║
 Jesús Rueda, Pocket Paradise, Anemo, 2009

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