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Ruby

Concerto for percussion and orchestra

2003

25 minutes

Reviews

Independent 30 July 2003

Robert Maycock

Joe Duddell caused quite a stir and so should Ruby his percussion concerto for Colin Currie and the Bournemouth Symphony

Orchestra. A very English, understated and slightly droll piece, repetitive and pulsing, spiced with harmonic and orchestral

touches of Stravinsky. Each movement has a clear mood – quizzical, basking, quietly joyous – and the most fulfilled premiere of

the week’s premieres comes to a neatly timed end. Currie, outstandingly, played from memory.

Mail on Sunday August 3 2003

David Mellor

Exhilarating stuff and Duddell’s work pretty much merited all the effort that went into playing it. Duddell, barely 30, is a product of

the new generation of composers who are not afraid of a tune. Influenced by everything from reggae to rock (Duddell has been a

drummer in a rock band for years) this concerto makes an ideal bridge into the classics for rock-obsessed youngsters.

Tempo

Tempo 58 (227) 50–62

Martin Anderson

Until the world première of Joe Duddell’s Ruby on 25 July, I had yet to hear a percussion concerto which didn’t trip itself up. I

thought it was in the nature of the beast: the orchestra develops some material, which is then passed to the percussion, at which

point all development perforce stops. Duddell (b. 1972) solved the problem by turning it on its head, and limiting the orchestral

material to what the solo percussionist could handle; the downside is that he necessarily limits the expressive scope of the

orchestra. Ruby – the title is simply a rhyming-slang working label that stuck: it’s the final part of a trilogy of works written for the

percussionist Colin Currie – opens with a vibraphone pattern that suggests a lyrical musicbox and soon shows a stylistic affinity

with American minimalism, which alternates with slabs of good-natured energy. The slow movement begins with tremolo marimba

chords over string lines that drift aimlessly and agreeably, with a more active central section spurred by brief brass figures which

trigger rising scalic patterns in the vibraphone. The initial material returns with soft-centred strings above hypnotic vibraphone

figuration and is sung to a close by the rapturous sound of bowed vibraphone chords. The finale likewise deals in cheerfully

mesmeric vibraphone patterns over a wash of strings and stuttering comment from horns and trumpets; the soloist then offers an

improvised toccata on drum-kit backed by forceful rhythms from a near-tutti orchestra. The vibraphone resumes its jolly prattle

until, seemingly having run out of things to say, the music just stops dead. Currie, supported by the Bournemouth Symphony

Orchestra under the functional Marin Alsop, played it with obvious commitment, and from memory – no small achievement in such

motoric music.

Daily Telegraph

Geoffrey Norris  -  28 Jul 2003

Ruby was immeasurably more interesting than the last percussion concerto Alsop had to premiere, the woefully ill-named

HYPERLINK "http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2001/02/27/bmrsno27.xml"Rapture by Michael Torke that was

such a memorably damp squib in Glasgow two years ago. The soloist was the same on both occasions.

Last night, a great cheer went up for the charismatic Colin Currie, who is such an inspirational catalyst when it comes to

contemporary percussion music. This concerto by Duddell looked much more difficult to play than it was to listen to, but Currie's

athleticism and musicianship were fully equal to it.

Programme Notes

Ruby forms the final part of a triptych of works written for the percussionist Colin Currie.  The first, Parallel Lines, for percussion

and piano, was written in 1999, followed by Snowblind, for percussion and strings, written in 2002.  While the first two works are

almost exclusively for tuned percussion, Ruby incorporates an un-tuned kit set-up, but the emphasis is still on the tuned

instruments.  In fact, the contrast between the rhythmic and colouristic properties of the un-tuned and the melodic and harmonic

possibilities of the tuned is one of the underlying ‘arguments’ of the work.  So, along with the familiar muscular sonorities of the

drum kit, Colin has material with which he can engage with the orchestra’s harmonic framework in a lyrical manner.  After all, this

is what one might expect from a concerto for any other instrument, so why not for percussion?  One might also expect some

theatrical leaping from one instrument set to another and, while there are some quick changes for Colin to make, these are for

purely musical reasons and not meant as some hackneyed dramatic effect.

Ruby is in a conventional three-movement form (basically: medium - slow - fast) but one where the three sections form an overall

arc shape.  The first two movements have two tempos each, which are incorporated (along with the material) into the third, with

the final passage being in the same tempo as the opening.  Almost all the material of the work is derived from the soloist’s two

ostinatos and the trumpet figure and string chords from the beginning of the first movement.  There are prominent roles for the first

flute, trumpet, piano and double bass, which, along with Colin, form a ‘concerto grosso’ group in the third movement.

The vast majority of my titles are borrowed from other sources and are completely abstract (as is the majority of the music).  Ruby

was a joke that stuck, and anybody with a rudimentary grasp of rhyming slang can work it out!  The work is dedicated to Colin

Currie.  As a critic once remarked, Colin is ‘a musician first, percussionist second’ and for those of us all too familiar with

derogatory ‘drummer’ jokes, this is both high and well deserved praise.

Key Performances

World Premiere - BBC Proms 2003

25.07.03

Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London, UK

Conductor: Martin Alsop

Performers: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Colin Currie, Schlagzeug

BBC Young Musician of the Year  2004

02.05.04

Venue: Usher Hall, Edinburgh, UK

Conductor: Ilan Volkov

Performers: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

National Premiere

02.05.04

Venue: Dewan Filharmonic Petronas, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Conductor: Paul Mann

Performers: Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra / Colin Currie, percussion

National Premiere

27.05.04

Finale 12. Eurovisionswettbewerb junger Musiker

Venue: Konzertsaal, Luzern, Switzerland

Conductor: Christian Arming

Performers: Luzerner Sinfonieorchester

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