Magazine article Gramophone

Reich: Mallet Quartet

Magazine article Gramophone

Reich: Mallet Quartet

Article excerpt

Reich

Mallet Quartet. Sextet. Nagoya Marimbas. Music for Pieces of Wood Third Coast Percussion Cedille (F) CDR90000161 (62' * DDD)

Steve Reich's music is often at its most effective when he writes for different combinations of percussion and/or piano, often set out symmetrically on stage in opposing pairs. This form of contemporary chamber music--unique in many ways to Reich--foregrounds some of its most important stylistic elements: rhythmic and melodic counterpoint; the combination and layering of interlocking patterns; and, most importantly, the dynamic interplay and subtle shifts in balance that are required collectively from the ensemble to best achieve these effects.

It is this last element that proves a stumbling block for some performances of Reich's music. Third Coast Percussion get it absolutely right here. Consider, for example, the five-movement Sextet (1984) for percussion and keyboards, which has become something of a 1980s Reich classic. Third Coast take the first movement at a slightly steadier pace than the original recording by Steve Reich and Musicians (Nonesuch, 8/88) and certainly more slowly than Contempoartensemble under Danilo Grassi (Arts Music, 2002), who race through the opening chord cycle at such speed that the music's rhythmic subtleties are largely lost. …

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