Percussion CD Release Garners Rave Reviews

MSU's Gwen Dease explores solo marimba works of contemporary composer.

MSU Associate Professor Professor of Percussion Gwen Dease performs on the marimba during a concert dedicating the Cook Recital Hall.
“Idle Fancies,” released in 2015, features three pieces written by computer-music pioneer Paul Lansky.

A recent CD by MSU Associate Professor of Percussion Gwen Dease showcases the marimba in solo performance by featuring three pieces for the mallet instrument written by a computer-music pioneer.

Through Idle Fancies, Dease pays homage to the remarkable depth of Paul Lansky—a composer known for both his electro-acoustic work as well as his compositions for analog instruments. The Bridge Records CD features Dease’s interpretations of three Lansky works for the marimba: Spirals, Three Moves and Idle Fancies. Recorded at Cook Recital Hall in mid-2015, the CD was released in late 2015 and caught the attention of reviewers in 2016.

Lansky had originally asked Dease to record the solo pieces after he saw her perform some of his compositions on a video produced by the Vic Firth stick company. Dease, a long-time admirer of Lansky, jumped at the opportunity.

“It made me feel great to be approached by him,” says Dease who is also the chair of the MSU brass and percussion area. “I always enjoy playing a composer’s piece for them and hope that my interpretation will line up with their vision.”

Lansky attended the recording sessions, which added to Dease’s excitement. The sessions were recorded and edited by College of Music Alumnus Sergei Kvitko, a Lansing-based pianist who earned his DMA in music performance in 2001.

“It was really amazing to work with him,” she says of Lansky.  “It surprised me how open he was. I learned a great deal from working with him.”

Idle Fancies has received rave reviews from publications like Gramophone, and classical music bloggers like Christian B. Carey, and forums like Sequenza 21. The CD continues to attract listeners from a variety of genres.  

“I knew something special was imminent when I stepped out of my office one day in the summer of 2015 and saw Paul Lansky, David Starobin, and Gwen Dease outside the entrance to Cook Recital Hall,” says James Forger, dean of the College of Music. “The product of this collaboration is a beautifully recorded CD of stunning music for marimba performed with the highest artistry—a tour de force.”

The Idle Fancies CD inspired Dease to further explore the connections between composers and performers. An upcoming recording will combine jazz and classical elements, and involved inviting jazz composers to create works for solo and chamber music.

“I’ve also had some ideas for a possible CD with more Lansky music,” she says. “So we’ll see what happens first.”

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