Pedro Carneiro, Solo Percussionist

It has been a pleasure to follow the progress of this remarkable young musician since his 1998 PLG recital in the Purcell Room. I have reviewed him more recently at South Bank Centre Rhythmsticks S&H July 1999 and at Blackheath Halls’ Pianoworks S&H October 1999. For his return to the Purcell Room, Pedro Carneiro played mainly the marimba, framing his recital with two short pieces on snare drum.

All the composers featured were contemporary, many not well known here. ‘Bilingual and bicultural’ Luis Tinoco’s Mind the Gap was ostensibly about travelling around in London. Steven Mackey’s piece was inspired by Thelonius Monk. Erkki-Sven Tuur’s Motus 1 was the most substantial and impressive – a composer with many sides and different voices, becoming familiar through CDs. It began and finished with a gong stroke and had short inserts on temple blocks and bongos.

Nebojsa Zivkovic’s Les violons morts revealed what I took to be a sub-text of this recital, to confound expectations of a percussion virtuoso. Described as ‘silent music for marimba’, it exemplified Carneiro’s exploration of the quiet capabilities of this versatile instrument. Using chiefly soft-ended sticks, Carneiro demonstrated a wealth of subtle nuance in the toppp range, securing concentrated listening which brought to my mind what happens with instruments like the lute, and the clavichord (which I play), as one acclimatises to an unexpected dynamic scale. He played Joseph Schwanter’s Velocities, now fairly familiar in Evelyn Glennie’s interpretation with, I suspect, harder right-hand sticks than Carneiro’s, to more extrovert effect.

Carneiro’s approach is notably laid-back and reserved, with economy of movement and gesture. One watched, as if hypnotised, the play of angles between fingers and between arm and keys. For someone who can never even succeed in picking up a noodle with chopsticks, it all looks impossible.

Now 24, he is in demand as a teacher and already has an impressive performance CV with a full international programme of recitals and concerto performances, and a CD of Portuguese marimba music scheduled for later this year. This recital confirms Pedro Carneiro as a thinking musician who brings an original approach to his career. I hope he doesn’t get taken over by the marketing people!

Peter Grahame Woolf