Concerto ‘nails’ marimba’s place in orchestra – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, by Bob Karlovits
“Percussionist Lisa Pegher says there is a simple reason she performs the Kevin Puts marimba concerto frequently.
“Kevin nailed it,” she says emphatically after lamenting about how some composers simply do not know how to write for the marimba.
Pegher, who is operating her career out of Pittsburgh, will perform the concerto Saturday with the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg. The performance will be conducted by Thomas Hong, who serves as assistant conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Puts, who lives in New York City and teaches at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, says Pegher is “one of my favorite percussionists” because of the way she has played his works, even though they have never met.
Pegher is impressed with Puts’ understanding of the sound of the instrument, one of the reasons she says she keeps it “part of my repertoire.”
She says many composers write for the marimba as though it were a piano. They look at the ways the keys are laid out — like a piano’s — and write in a chordal way, which really does not suit the instrument.
“If you look at the lines Kevin wrote, you will see they are much more like something a violin would play,” she says.
She and the composer agree the concerto is something like a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart piano concerto, particularly in the way the solo instrument and orchestra interchange thoughts.
Puts says the concerto “is one of my most-performed pieces.” He was commissioned to write the work in 1997, and it has been played by many ensembles and types of groups, he says. Pegher alone has added to that history; she recently performed it with a chamber orchestra.
She says she suggested the work to Daniel Meyer, artistic director of the orchestra, when he talked to her about a solo role.
But, she says, Meyer didn’t want to get involved with the “whole percussion issue” that often involves filling the stage with a great variety of those instruments. Doing a marimba concerto was closer to performing a piano or violin piece.
Along with this new work, the concert also will feature a suite from Ottorino Resphigi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances” and Felix Mendelsson’s symphony No. 4.
Pegher, a native of Clinton in western Allegheny County, is a busy soloist who, for a time, was living in New Orleans where she was performing with some orchestras there. When she decided to move her career more in the solo direction, she moved back to Pittsburgh, where she was able to rent warehouse space in the North Side to use as a percussion studio.
She is not sure if she will stay in Pittsburgh, but is finding success with it right now as a place to run her career, she says. Her schedule has made her well known enough that composer Richard Danielpour is writing a percussion concerto for her to be debuted in the 2013-14 season.
She says they are working on assembling a consortium of orchestras to perform the work.”