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A New Take on Timpani

There aren't many concertos composed for timpani. But, as WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, Maurice Wright has written a work that celebrates the instrument and its often untapped range.

Listen to composer Maurice Wright and Philadelphia Orchestra Prinicipal Timpanist Don Liuzzi talk about how Wright's 'Resounding Drums' showcases the timpani in new ways.

Radio script:

Susan Lewis: Resounding Drums begins with a movement called Leviathan, recalling a large sea creature.

Music: Resounding Drums, Maurice Wright

Maurice Wright

Maurice Wright: This is a metaphor for our own emotional  states...where we always have fears to confront and deep, dark things that are under. It also plays off the notion that the way the timpani’s overtones are spaced, it projects a note that is lower than is sounding at any one time.

SL: Exploring the timpani’s range, history, and melodic nature, Wright wanted his concerto to be full of contrasts.

MW:  A lot of it is about drumming and refers to things that drums do well. But a lot is about singing and melody, which I think is unusual for the timpani.

SL:  A cadenza features the melody in one hand and rhythm in the other. Philadelphia Orchestra prinicipal timpanist Don Liuzzi, for whom the work was written:

Don Liuzzi: I love the cadenza. It's really idiomatically written, but plenty challenging...he’s got an ostinato in the left hand, and then I’ve got a melody.

SL: Resounding Drums also recalls the use of the timpani in battle. The work is written for timpani and an orchestra, which includes strings, brass, harp, and woodwinds, as well as cymbals, flexatone, maracas, bells, rachet, tam tam and whip, among other percussion instruments.

Listen to WRTI on Sunday, June 25th at 1 pm to hear a re-broadcast of DonLiuzzi and the Philadelphia Orchestra perform Wright’s concerto, Resounding Drums, in a concert also featuring a new work by Jonathan Leshnoff, as well as music by Bernstein and Prokofiev.  

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.