Pedro Eustache, Twenty Instruments You’ve Never Heard Of, And the Performance of a Lifetime

April 10, 2009 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Pedro Eustache, Twenty Instruments You’ve Never Heard Of, And the Performance of a Lifetimeon Twitter

Remember that world woodwind player I kept raving about in our World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King review? Well, Pedro Eustache is known for much more than his work on games, and has enjoyed an expansive career as a world woodwind player. I was always moved by his soulful performances, but I wasn’t aware of just how versatile he is as both a performer and a composer until now.

Pedro Eustache recently gave the performance of his career in February, titled “Suite Concertante for World Woodwinds & Symphony Orchestra.” The piece was composed by Eustache himself during 2008, and was performed in February by Eustache along with the Venezuela Orchestra and conducted by world-class conductor Gustavo Dudamel. I know we don’t cover traditional orchestral music very often on OSV, but this performance was anything but traditional!

See what I mean in our review of Pedro Eustache’s masterwork after the jump.

Let’s start with a set list and breakdown of the instruments that Eustache used during the performance:

“Suite Concertante For World Woodwinds and Symphony Orchestra”
By Pedro Eustache

I -II. Asia:India: “Raga Todi” [Parts 1 and 2]
Instrument(s): ‘D’ ‘King Bansuri’, Ra-KI-ba, PiccK. Bansuri

III. Mid-East/North-Africa
Instrument(s):Oryx-o-phone, Arabic Ney, Tunisian Mezoued, Bass Persian Ney, Arabic & Persian Ney, Headjoints for the Western Boehmflute

IV. Eastern Europe 1:Armenia
Instrument(s):Armenian Duduk, Armenian Noro-B’Lul

V. Eastern Europe 2: “21/8”
Instrument(s):Alto, Sop. and Soprano sax, Armenian Shvis, Armenian B’Lul, Slovakian King Fujara

VI. Western Europe/Spain 1: “Prelude To’Fuga…’”
Instrument(s):Soprano Sax

VII. Western Europe/Spain 2: “Fuga Por Bulería”

Instrument(s): Flamenco Flute

VIII. South America 1:Argentina: “Baguala”

Instrument(s):Andean ‘King Kenacho’

IX. South America 2:Bolivia: “Tarkeada”

Instrument(s): Double-Tarka

X. South America 3:Venezuela: “The Fjitchu of the Yekuana People”
Instrument(s):Yekuana Fjitchu

XI-XII. The World:Global: “Urban-Finale”

Instrument(s):Australian Didgeridoo, Sop. Sax, Flute, Latin-percussion, vocal solo

The opening segment, “Raga Todi” features the musical sorcery of Pedro right from the get-go. He plays a seductive melody while droning strings fade in and out and descending harp arpeggios create a sense of uneasiness. It isn’t long before the entire orchestra joins in to voice an exotic burst of sound with rapid string stabs and rhythmic percussion. Pedro and the entire orchestra enter a segment of call and response, and given how fast Pedro is on his woodwinds, I was surprised that the orchestra was able to keep up!

The next segment, inspired by the Middle East and North Africa, had me bopping my head along with the mellow percussion and slow, walking pace of the piece. And wow, the melody here is so song-like, showing that Mr. Eustache is more than a musician, and is truly an artist. The Eastern Europe segment takes a melancholy approach, with the orchestra slowly building up around Pedro’s woodwind work. Piano and harp notes play out of time and almost randomly in the background while different layers of strings swell and fade to create an otherworldly sound that is warm and encompassing. Next, a groovy, fingered bassline and staccato string stabs take center stage before Eustache joins in with a very shrill instrument. The strange time signature and key changes definitely lend this piece a unique sound, but one that I enjoyed very much. I have no idea how the percussionists were able to play with the weird time signature.

Eustache tackles Western Europe and Spain with a saxophone, but this isn’t jazz music. The strings flutter behind him, uncertainly. The next instrument he grabs is a raspy woodwind instrument that he plays alongside an impressive solo percussionist. The orchestra switches off between bold, powerful segments, and whimsical sections full of airness and cheer. It’s definitely an interesting contrast.

Towards the end, Pedro attempts to create a piece of music that features influences from all around the world. He starts with the Australian Didgeridoo, creating what sounds like screeching primates alongside the sounds of chirping insects and birds. The orchestra starts up a foreboding musical accompaniment complete with espionage-esque hi-hat-heavy percussion. The trumpet work and block percussion remind me of some of Koichi Sugiyama’s dungeon themes (I couldn’t leave out the game references, right?), and the piece is amazingly cinematic and smooth while being bass heavy. Simply put, it’s “cool.” I think if more people around the world could see this in a concert hall, they’d be more willing to go see their local orchestra! Eustache even takes turns with the members of the orchestra with a section of Latin scat singing.

Pedro finishes the piece with a bang before clapping and bowing to the orchestra and embracing Dudamel in an appreciative hug. He receives the standing ovation that he deserves, and honestly, watching it, I couldn’t help but be moved by what Pedro accomplished with this piece of music. I was astonished by his mastery of so many instruments, most of which I had never heard of.  It’s quite an impressive feat, and the
fact that he is able to weave each instrument’s unique sound into a cohesive piece of music is even more amazing. It was an amazing experience to be able to see Pedro Eustache pouring his heart and soul into his biggest and most significant performance yet. I hope that someday they put this performance out on DVD, as everyone should see it at least once.

Are you a fan of this kind of world music?  Do you think you might find yourself sitting in your local concert venue more often if this stuff was regularly scheduled?

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