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Steve REICH (b.1936)
Vermont Counterpoint (1982) [8:43]
Ransom Wilson (clarinet)
Eight Lines (1972) [18:11]
Solisti New York; Ransom Wilson (flutes, alto flutes, percussion)
New York Counterpoint (1985) [11:09]
Alain Damiens (clarinet); Franck Rossi (sound projection)
Four Organs (1970) [24:12]
Michael Tilson Thomas (organs)
Philip GLASS (b.1937)
Façades (1981) [7:47]
Company (1983) [9:02]
London Chamber Orchestra/Christopher Warren-Green
rec. 1982, Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California (Vermont; Lines); 17 July 1996, IRCAM, Paris (Counterpoint); 1973, (Four Organs); 1, 4-5 March 1990, All Saints Church, Petersham (Facades, Company). ADD/DDD


Experience Classicsonline

This is the second Minimalist School disc in the first EMI season of American Classics. The other disc is given over completely to John Adams. For me the present disc is to be preferred for its variety and for the intrinsic attractions of the music. The tight insistence of the winsome material is irresistible. Try the mixed birdsong clarinet chatter and Keel Row ‘jiggerie’ of Vermont Counterpoint. It is this regular dazzle of sound that first won me round when I heard, more than twenty years ago, a tape of Reich's Variations. Eight Lines is more obsessive and tightens constrictingly over the chest rather than offering the release of Vermont Counterpoint and Variations. The impression of flashing patterns of coloured light is very strong here. New York Counterpoint’s electronically processed clarinet-chaffing is compressed into eleven minutes. The effect is relieved by the interruption of new episodes which keep the ear interested with occasional variation of material as well as regularity of iteration. It's a different piece in its more frequent introduction of change and new ideas. From Reich's earliest days comes Four Organs in a performance by Michael Tilson Thomas who at that time had only recently completed his Ruggles recording project for CBS. It's one of Reich's most extreme pieces and I can well believe the  anecdote that at one of the New York performances one woman rushed forward from the audience shouting repeatedly 'All right, I confess!' It is repetition stark and unadorned. The harmony remains the same throughout its 24 minutes with the only change being the length of particular notes in the repeatedly expressed cell. The only decoration is a maraca or sand box sound above the organ cell. 

Philip Glass is represented by shorter works. His Façades is from the score for the 1983 film Koyaanisqatsi. This was written for an unused montage of New York skyscrapers. The insistently murmuring string cell is subdued and troubled with a Herrmann-like hysteria subtext. The four movements that make up Company - nothing to do with the Sondheim musical - were originally written for a play based on Samuel Beckett's novella of that name. I have heard this work recently in the Naxos 3 CD boxed set including three of Glass's symphonies. Christopher Warren-Green gives the score greater edge and fullness. The music steps not that far away from Sibelius's Rakastava. Incidentally if you are looking at the less expensive options for exploring the Minimalists then apart from the two American Classics don't forget that 3CD Glass box from Naxos. 

A shame that there was no Terry Riley in the EMI coffers but you can't have everything. 

Martin Cotton and EMI have deny us any dates for these works. A pity because otherwise these are very readable notes … if short. 

Perhaps ironically both minimalist volumes are tightly packed -  with playing times over 73 minutes.

Rob Barnett


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