Music preview: Stewart Copeland of The Police premieres concerto with PSO

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Elizabeth Bloom 

You may remember him as the drummer for the rock band The Police. But for decades, Stewart Copeland has made a nice little career for himself as a composer of music for films, television, symphony halls and pretty much any other medium he can get his hands on. The video game "Spyro the Dragon"? Copeland. The 1987 Oliver Stone movie "Wall Street"? Also Copeland. A few operas? Sure, why not?

His parents raised him on big band jazz (his father), and classical music (his mother), by composers such as Bartok, Ravel and Aaron Copland, whom he jokingly refers to as "Uncle Copland."

"That's the part that really stuck, until the advent of Jimi Hendrix, when everything else was brushed aside," he said by phone from California. "I am a child of both Hendrix and Stravinsky."

"I'm a fan of orchestral music," he said. "Most stuff before the 20th century leaves me a little cold, I've got to say, although I like Wagner."

As one of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's featured composer-performers this season, Mr. Copeland will give the world premiere of "The Tyrant's Crush," his concerto for drum set and percussion, this weekend at Heinz Hall. Led by debuting conductor Marcelo Lehninger, the program also includes Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1.

Joining the drummer in front of the PSO will be symphony percussionists Andy Reamer, Chris Allen and Jeremy Branson, and principal timpanist Ed Stephan, who performed Mr. Copeland's "Gamelan D'Drum" with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and described it as "the most enthusiastically received concert I've been a part of."

Perhaps that enthusiasm is built into Mr. Copeland's DNA. While his music deepens the virtuosity of the drum set as a concert instrument, he also aims to bring the "throb" of a live rock show to the classical world.

"In rock 'n' roll or pop music, everything that isn't classical, there's a call and response, there's kinetic ritual," he said. "That's a very powerful dramatic show element, and when you're watching Brahms, you want everybody to shut up.

"But I still feel that the orchestra can accomplish all that," he said. "I don't see any reason why 60 guys can't rock the house."

Read the rest of the preview here.