Celebrated percussionist Evelyn Glennie performs with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra tonight through Sunday, after a decade-long absence. The Grammy-winning Dame Commander of the British Empire will be the soloist in UFO, a big, brilliant work from 1999 by Michael Daugherty.
Glennie, 43, was reached by phone in London. An assistant repeated the questions and the percussionist, profoundly deaf since the age of 12, lip-read them and then answered them in her light Scottish accent.
Writing about UFO, Daugherty conjures up images of aliens, strange metal objects and Roswell, N.M. Do you have any particular convictions about interplanetary visitors and that sort of thing?
I don't believe in it. There might be life out there, but I don't think it has been experienced yet.
What have you found most surprising and rewarding about UFO?
One of the many aspects of the piece that I like is the combination of notated music and the freedom to improvise.
You recorded UFO with Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra a few years ago, and she will be conducting your performance of the piece with the BSO. What's it like collaborating with her?
Marin and I have worked together quite a lot. And when you work with a conductor often, you begin to take chances. She uses rehearsal time well and makes sure everyone is focused 200 percent. And her humor helps put things in perspective.
You reveal lots of intriguing things on your Web site ( www.evelyn.co.uk), including your plans to design a line of jewelry. You also mention that two non-percussion musicians had a great influence on you, cellist Jacqueline du Pre and pianist Glenn Gould. In what ways?
Jacqueline du Pre had such a sheer exuberance and love of music, and such individuality. She basically just lived every note. That's extremely infectious. Her performing life was so short. It's extraordinary that she could affect so many people. And she really did move people. Same for Glenn Gould. His playing was so fresh, so daring. He took chances. ... You have to believe in your interpretations, and know that they are going to change every time you pick the sticks up.
if you go
The BSO performs at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow and 3 p.m. Sunday at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall; 8 p.m. Saturday at the Music Center at Strathmore. Tickets are $25-$80. Call 410-783-8000 or go to bsomusic.org.