Decoding the composition
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Arranged here for percussion ensemble by Omar Carmenates, Corybas, a dynamic, willful, and playful paino trio was commissioned by Ian Graham as a birthday gift for his wife Agi Lehar-Graham, and in grateful recognition of the New Zealand Chamber Soloists (NZCS) Piano Trio – Katherine Austin, Lara Hall and James Tennant. It's in stark contrast to the calmer, more serene, Aegean its companion work which can be thought of as its postlude. As a composer, it was an intriguing situation to consider the influence of the work being a gift. So, I reached out to Ian for a reference point and discovered Aggie's interest in the Corybas flower. The name originates from the helmet-shaped flowers, resembling the headgear worn by the dancers of Corybas in Ancient Greece. The lively odd-metered rhythmic patterns in Corybas echo the vibrant movements of the dancers in Eastern European traditions, capturing their spirit and energy An exciting aspect of writing Corybas was getting my head around a particular dance groove found in Macedonia, which is in 17/8 time but divided into measures of 7/8, 6/8, and 4/8. It’s a fantastic groove but it takes some work to internalise it. I had to play with this groove in a way that would keep performers from going crazy because of the amount of variation and syncopation on top the 17/8 meter, otherwise the material would be stressful and unsatisfying to play instead of exciting. I’m very happy about Corybas because I think I got the balance right in this respect. Once performers internalise the underlying meter I see a transformation take place and they love to play it. Later on I found out the name of Ian and Aggies boat was called Corybas, so there is some kind of connection


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Corybas (percussion ensemble)

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Project Details

Corybas (percussion ensemble)

for Percussion Ensemble (arr. Carmenates)

Arranger: Omar Carmenates

Instrumentation: Mallet Quintet and Percussion: Vib (2x), Mar3x), Glock, Ride Cymbal, Bamboo Chimes, Daouli

Difficulty Level:
Instrument Tags:
Mixed Percussion
Mallet Percussion

Programme Note

Corybas opens with the unaccompanied piano holding the repetitive odd-metered groove that propels the work. In contrast with the piano’s brisk stream of notes, the cello and violin take turns with long, mournful pitches that rise out of, and then sink back into, the piano’s texture. The strings then build momentum through fusing their melodic lines with the piano’s groove, offering short syncopated accents and uniting for dramatic and thrilling phrases. The cyclic nature of the underlying groove is also realised in Corybas's surges of intensity as the work pushes through a series of climaxes that drop back to a hushed drama, beginning the process over again. With each rising wave, the strings’ melodic lines grow more decorative, with the piano opening up to provide thunderous points of arrival in the bass register, and joining the strings in incorporating more decorative flourishes. The underlying groove is toyed with, employing snatches of other metric configurations. Eventually, the successive waves lose their intensity, with the work winding down in a lighter restatement of the opening material, the original groove reimagined in the piano’s upper register.



Review by Middle C