On LO & BEHOLD, percussionist Ralph Sorrentino brings percussion instruments to the fore to highlight their versatility in solo and chamber music settings. Five pieces, from a variety of composers, highlight the moods, emotions, timbres, and textures that can be expressed by the instruments of the percussion family. The revelatory album introduces innovative compositions into the percussion repertoire, and the performers’ technical prowess yields a collection of engaging and musically sensitive performances.
Today, Ralph is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about his early exposure to the Philadelphia Orchestra, and a pit orchestra performance that went dark during a difficult passage of music…
Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?
During my childhood I was captivated by The Philadelphia Orchestra and Riccardo Muti. I had the good fortune to attend a number of Philadelphia Orchestra performances during field trips with my school music program, and I was always amazed by the sound of the orchestra in the historic Academy of Music. I also learned a great deal by observing the orchestra’s brilliant percussionists during these performances. Some of my favorite Philadelphia Orchestra recordings include Maestro Muti leading the orchestra in Scheherazade, Pines of Rome, and Fountains of Rome. I’ve since had the opportunity to perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Muti, including an incredibly memorable performance of Respighi’s Feste Romane at Carnegie Hall.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
Though music was a big part of my life throughout middle school and high school, I truly developed a passion for performing and recording during my undergraduate studies at West Chester University, and during the two concert seasons that I performed with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. I had the opportunity to learn from some outstanding professors and ensemble directors, which helped me identify my interests and shaped my future career path.
What was your most unusual performance?
My most unusual performance took place with the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra in April 2017. During a performance of Hershy Kay’s Western Symphony at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia, the music stand lights in the orchestra pit went out in the middle of the performance. I had to play several difficult xylophone passages in the dark, which made for a very memorable performance. The music stand lights then continued to flicker on and off for a good bit of the performance before the problem was resolved.
What was your favorite musical moment on the album?
My favorite musical moment on the album takes place in the title track, Molly Joyce’s Lo and Behold. I love the dynamic contrast and the change of mood between the first and second movements of Molly’s composition. I think that Molly masterfully explores the dynamic and tonal extremes of the concert bass drum, and these contrasts yield a captivating musical moment.
What does this album mean to you personally?
I am excited to offer the premiere commercial recordings of Molly Joyce’s Lo and Behold and Maurice Wright’s Duo Fantasia. I commissioned both pieces and it was an honor to collaborate with the composers, beginning with the initial drafts/readings and culminating with the recordings. I was also thrilled to have Sophia Anastasia and Chris Hanning join me on the album, as Sophia and Chris are two of my absolute favorite musical collaborators.
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
I hope that listeners enjoy the wide variety of sounds and textures that can be created by the instruments of the percussion family. The album includes a multitude of instruments, including snare drum, timpani, concert bass drum, vibraphone, tuned gongs, etc. I hope that the timbral palette and the dynamic spectrum engage the listening audience throughout the album.