Suite for Mallet Duo
Composer: Daniel Berg
Instrument: Marimba Duo
Duration: 15 min.
What’s the sound of a cold winter day with a frozen lake? I dedicate January to Nadia Boulanger, a French composer, conductor and pedagogue, because of her passion for teaching. Among those who studied with her can be mentioned – Aaron Copland, Astor Piazzolla, Per Nørgård, Elliot Carter, James Wood, Philip Glass and Quincy Jones.
February, another mallet dance…
A few years ago I was written a duo by the vibraphone virtuoso Anders Åstrand. The dance for vibraphone and marimba, based on a rhythmic pattern in 12/8 played on a couple of harmonies, has since then become a favorite piece among percussion players. In February the joy of snow is in focus, but the fact that both Anders and I were born in February does not do things worse.
March, end of Winter
As a young student I got in contact with the piece Tierkreis by Karlheinz Stockhausen. Chords with both major and minor took me through the sky to another universe. In March, end of Winter I would like to get the melancholic atmosphere when ices are melting and when heavy snow transforms into the rain of grey.
There is probably no other composer than Igor Stravinskij who better interpreted the primal force of Spring. In April I have borrowed the typical syncopation of eights that in my version dances on the twelve tones.
Springtime – it’s May!
What can be more beautiful than the sound of two marimbas? Steve Reich has explored this delicate color several times, not least in his Nagoya Marimbas. Happiness of the light, the bright green color and the heat we been longing for Springtime – it’s May!
Night in June
What can taste better than a nice cigar after an evening with delicious meal and beverage in company with a sunset? Memories from the years gone by, memory of a friend somewhere else who still speaks to me, an euphoric ecstacy with faith for the future... Night in June is dedicated to Swedish composer Jan Tolf who was a master of writing fine melodies into a harmonious mix of contemporary music and jazz.
Six duos for different mallet instruments
Night in june by Daniel Berg
February by Daniel Berg
Springtime - it's May! by Daniel Berg
About the composer +
Daniel Berg is a versatile marimba soloist, composer and educator. He holds the position as the marimba and chamber teacher at Ljungskile Folk High School, University Colleges of Music in Örebro and Gothenburg (Sweden).
He has made several CD-recordings like In a Landscape, Ricamo, Sound of Transparence and Rhythm Art Duo. In his passion to promote the marimba as a solo- and chamber music instrument, Daniel has worked intimately with a number of composers who have written original music for the instrument. This includes more than 150 world premiers for solo and chamber works.
As a composer Daniel has written a couple of solo works for marimba like Over the Moon, December and Blue Memories. The pieces belong today to the standard marimba repertoire. In Januar 2014 Daniel Berg recorded a new CD Framework together with Anders Åstrand. The CD includes their own solo and duo works for marimba and vibraphone – all published by Edition Svitzer.
Review (Percussive Notes, June 2020)
“Suite for Mallet Duo” is a curiously chimeric collection of short keyboard percussion duets that will charm public audiences and musical insiders alike. Each of the suite’s six movements is named after one of the first six months in the year and dedicated to a composer who has had a lasting impact on Swedish percussionist-composer Daniel Berg’s career. Berg is clearly most at home exploring that vein of jazz-influenced percussion salon music championed by European keyboardists such as Anders Åstrand (with whom Berg recorded an album in 2014), and those jazzy roots are unabashedly present in most of this collection. However, in going one step further and bravely invoking some of the weightiest names in percussion history—names like Stravinsky, Stockhausen,and Reich—while crafting this series of style studies, Berg succeeds remarkably in the ambitious goal of evoking those old masters’ styles within the context of a six-movement, 15-minute suite for vibraphone and marimba (plus some other bits and pieces here and there), and proves himself a capable musical chameleon when he chooses to leave his jazzy nest.
While some movements are more or less jazz charts (particularly the final movement, “Night in June,” which includes chord changes for improvisation), other movements’ connections to their dedicatees are particularly clear and will amuse those audiences members “in the know” with sly winks while proving satisfying and substantial enough to not leave the rest of the crowd simply scratching their heads in bewilderment. The waltz-like third movement (“March – end of Winter”) is an obvious nod to Stockhausen’s “Tierkreis,” complete with open instrumentation, while “April” fittingly begins with violent rhythmic clusters that unmistakably point to the “Augurs of Spring” portion of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” “Springtime – it’s May!” is the lone movement written for two marimbas and is a nod to Steve Reich (and in particular, “Nagoya Marimbas”), and is perhaps my favorite movement of the suite. Here, Berg judiciously adopts Reich’s techniques without completely surrendering his own voice in the process, and the result is an eight-minute love letter that is both nostalgic and engaging.
Although no single movement presents a technical challenge insurmountable to the average high school upperclassman, the suite as a whole really belongs in the hands of college students when attempted in its entirety. Teachers will also find ample opportunity to broach a wide array of historical and repertoire subjects, and even those performers who are simply looking for something new and interesting to play will find plenty to like about the collection. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and ingenuity of “Suite for Mallet Duo,” and it is my hope that Berg is already working on the other six months of the year.
Enamel painting: Bengt Berglund
Front Cover: Gaia Gomes
Photo: Per Buhre & Harry Friberg
Engraving: Johan Svitzer
Printed in Copenhagen, Denmark
Copyright © Edition SVITZER