Steve Reich

Another Look At Counterpoint

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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos

Reich compositions from 1973, 1967, 1985, and 1979 are brought into new focus by the Amadinda Percussion Group, pianists Kinga Szekely and Bela Farago, and their ensemble Group 180. They bring new brightness, meaning, and substance to the composer's already iridescent, thematically gradual process music. The utterly beautiful "Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices & Organ," played by Amadinda, creates wintertime holiday images, phasing in and out of time and harmonic focus with dual glockenspiels and marimba, organ, female siren songs, mixed vocals, and metallic percussion. The piece is liquid, luminescent, exacting, almost surreal. In "Piano Phase," the two pianists bounce off one another, using a Reich signature technique, with phrases moving in and out of rhythmic convergence. At times the effect is polyphonic to the delightfully maddening saturation point. Over 26 minutes long, "Sextet" (by Amadinda without voices and organ) is one of Reich's most demanding, complex, and multi-faceted works. It's in an ABCBA form: the head and tail are intense, the B sections somewhat patient in their inquisitive construct or stark drama, the midpoint heavy and deliberate or somewhat spatial. Group 180 performs "Octet," with 11 instruments -- including strings, oboe, bassoon, and trombone -- playing no more than eight lines at one time. A 5/4 rhythm rules throughout these incredible 17-and-a-half minutes of music. String accents and lovely flute inserts set the group off into a frenzy of bronzed, polished contrapuntal and individualistic dissertations. Reich has viewed this as a fresh and playful interpretation, filled with good humor and precise teamwork. The result is a wonderful alchemy of chamber music, improvised jazz, African percussive phraseology, and galactic vistas. Of the many fine recordings documenting Reich's music, this is one that every follower must have. The master of musical juxtaposition has perhaps been represented as well on previous CDs, but no better than on this masterpiece.

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