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Marimba with Míro Quartet

When the noted string quartet meets up with an adventurous percussionist, new music sparks will fly

Luke Quinton

Scottish percussionist Colin Currie is too modest to say so, but he's kind of a big deal.

Catching a train through London's Charing Cross station, Currie, who won a Grammy in 2010, speaks excitedly about the last 12 months of his life, and seems even more excited for the next 12.

Currie will join Austin's Miró Quartet at the University of Texas' Bates Recital Hall on Tuesday.

The Austin date will be the fivesome's first and also might feature an encore commissioned by Currie and the Miró, UT Butler School of Music's string quartet-in-residence. A second date is planned at Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center, and might spark a longer tour if audiences respond to this rare arrangement.

Currie is a young percussionist in demand, routinely selected to premier new works by the world's best living composers, such Pulitzer Prize-winner Steve Reich.

Indeed, Currie had a chance to meet Reich last year when his group performed "Drumming," Reich's hypnotizing work.

Reich "came to hear us perform it," Currie says, "and was very happy with our work ... and our slightly different take."

"He's also planning on writing me a new piece, a couple of seasons hence," Currie says nonchalantly.

This is the sort of thing musicians fantasize about. "I've been so absorbed with his music since I first heard it as a teenager," Currie says.

The concert with Miró is an extraordinary pairing. "It's all new music to us," says Miró's cellist Josh Gindele, "We've never played any of it."

That's because string quartets don't usually get to bring a marimba into the mix.

"We were just looking for something a little different," Gindele says. And, with very recent works by Dave Maric, Steve Martland, Michael Torke and Reich, they've found it.

"It's good repertoire that's been tested, but just doesn't get performed that frequently," Gindele says.

In fact, some of the pieces are barely out of the box.

"The Michael Torke piece is quite new," Currie says. "I premiered it in the autumn. It's a really cool piece, it's more or less a marimba concerto, so that one's quite tricky for me to put together."

"That piece is really cool," Gindele says. "It's got a real good groove to it. Groove is not something string quartets get to do that often."

When composers write for tuned percussion, many of them elicit great joy from increasing the degree of difficulty. So, in this case, the Miró has had to bring its A-game.

"The Martland is just brutally difficult," Gindele, says. "I felt like all I wanted to do after the rehearsal was go practice."

But the strings and marimba are anticipating a smooth union. "These pieces are very much quintets, so the percussion part is very much into the strings," Currie says.

"I think that it's going to be an unusual concert," says Gindele. "I also suspect there's going to be a lot of percussion fireworks."

It's true. Just watching the marimbas can be intoxicating. It's just "the nature of flinging mallets around," Gindele says.

Miró Quartet with Colin Currie, percussion

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Bates Recital Hall, Music Building, 2420 Robert Dedman Drive.

Cost: $36