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Marimba piece’s premiere is dry center of wet concert

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published April 12, 2012 at 4:34 a.m.

Marimbist Alexej Gerassimez will be the soloist in Michael Torke’s Mojave Concerto this weekend with the Arkansas Symphony.

— The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and conductor Philip Mann will get wet, dry and wet again in a pair of concerts titled “Desert & Sea” Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Music Hall.

The dry center will be the North American premiere of the Mojave Concerto for Marimba.

At the marimba will be German percussionist Alexej Gerassimez, 24, who won the biennial Tromp Percussion Competition in November in Eindhoven, Holland, for which this piece was commissioned.

Gerassimez and two other finalists played the piece in the competition’s final round and Mojave composer Michael Torke was more than enthusiastic about his performance, to the point that he insisted that the orchestra hire the young man to play the piece here.

“When Mojave wa s premiered, I re-contacted [Mann] and said, ‘The performance went very well, and especially the first-place prize winner, this German guy named Alexej, he played it just stupendously, you’ve got to hear it.’ I sent him the recording.

“When I told them, ‘You’ve got to get this German guy in to play it, he is my No. 1 choice, I want him to play it,’ I figured [I’d get back] ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ Instead, they hired him.”

The “wet” parts of the concert, the Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks series finale, will be the Overture to Richard Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman and Claude Debussy’s La Mer.

Torke, in Little Rock this week for the premiere, will also be conducting master classes at Hendrix College in Conway and at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock today and Friday, and working with the orchestra’s Rockefeller Quartet on a chamber piece, Corner in Manhattan, that will be part of a River Rhapsodies Chamber Concert at 7 p.m. Monday at the Clinton Presidential Center.

Gerassimez, born in Essen, Germany, in 1987, started taking piano lessons at age 5 and switched to percussion two years later. In addition to his solo and chamber music appearances, he also performs as part of a duo with his brother Nicolaj, a pianist.

More information about him is available at his website,




8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, Robinson Center Music Hall, West Markham Street and Broadway, Little Rock. Alexej Gerassimez, marimba; Michael Torke, Composer of the Year; Philip Mann, conductor. Wagner: Flying Dutchman Overture; Torke: Mojave Concerto for Marimba; Debussy: La Mer

Sponsor: Crowne Plaza

Tickets: $14-$52; free for children in grades K-12 to the Sunday matinee with paid adult

(501) 666-1761

Weekend, Pages 34 on 04/12/2012

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