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 EMI CLASSICS AMERICAN
CLASSICS 2066242 [79:45]
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’selectronically
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.
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