Steve REICH (b.1936)
Triple Quartet (1998) [14:59]
Piano Counterpoint (arranged by Vincent Corver from Reich’s Six Pianos) (2011) [12:47]
Different Trains (1988) [26:56]
London Steve Reich Ensemble/Kevin Griffiths
Vincent Corver (piano)
rec. Luzerner Saal, KKL, Luzern, Switzerland, 4-5 June 2011
EMI CLASSICS 5099908731920 [54:43]

Steve Reich is 75. This disc marks the event. The running time is regrettably short but what we hear is vintage Reich. The pulse and texture and micro-evolving rhythmic cells lose none of their hooked musical intrigue. Triple Quartet’s brusque vitality buzzes and abrades. Its dervish whirling dynamism references Bartók, Herrmann and Middle Eastern ecstatic meditation. Mystery and a pulsing marathon physicality arch over this music. Piano Counterpoint for solo piano takes a more purist approach to minimalism than Triple Quartet which has far more and far quicker variation. Its origins are the 1973 piece Six Pianos. The music’s incessant rhythmic pulsing drive needs to be surrendered to if you are to appreciate this work. It evinces his fascination with gamelan married with a tensely sustained excitement driven by a microscopic fascination with the sort of cells that attracted Stravinsky in Petrushka and Milhaud in Scaramouche. Different Trains atmospherically mixes the sounds of four string quartets with tape-repeated fragments of speech. The spoken cells of words are taken from interviews with Holocaust survivors, the governess with whom Reich travelled on US railroads 1939-42 and those recalling working on such trains. The movements are America, Before the War; Europe, During the War and After the War. His happy memories are brought into contact with the horrifically different train experiences of fellow Jews in Europe. Reich adds a klezmer overlay to the bustling train chatter, chugger, sirening and whistling. It manages to combine Ravelian kineticism with a scalpel-stabbing poignancy. There’s a really good liner note from Ken Smith – a writer EMI need to stay in touch with.

Rob Barnett

Kineticism with a scalpel-stabbing poignancy.