Feb 23, 2016

Quietly — or as quietly as percussion is ever capable — the percussion concerto has grown over the past few decades to have a prominent place in the orchestral repertoire.

Colin Currie is one of the most in-demand percussion soloists and will perform James MacMillan’s new second percussion concerto with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra this weekend. The percussion repertoire, Currie said, has been developing very quickly in the latter 20th century.

"Especially in the 1990s, a number of major pieces allowed percussion to get wide visibility with symphony orchestras," said the Scottish soloist. "One of the breakthrough pieces is the first percussion concerto written by James MacMillan, Veni, Veni Emmanuel."

Since its premiere in 1992, Veni, Veni Emmanuel has become one of the most performed percussion concerti, and Currie estimates that he’s personally played it 150 times. Twelve years later MacMillan completed his second percussion concerto. Currie, who the piece is dedicated to, said that the genre has grown and matured since MacMillan helped pioneer the field with Veni and that the new concerto takes advantage of those advancements.

MacMillan’s Percussion Concerto No. 2 was premiered in 2014 and received its American debut this summer at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music under the mallets of Currie and the baton of Marin Alsop. While rehearsing for that performance, Currie talked about MacMillan and the new work.