Steve Reich: You Are (Variations)

Los Angeles Master Chorale

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Steve Reich: You Are (Variations) Review

by Blair Sanderson

Even if one fully comprehends Steve Reich's minimalist procedures, admires his great wealth of invention, and feels sympathy for his artistic and philosophical aims, it is sometimes difficult to settle comfortably into some of his pieces. You Are (Variations) for chorus and ensemble (2004) is multilayered, kinetic, harmonically rich, and hypnotic, like the best of his work. But it is also possible to find this four-movement work over-hyped, pretentiously overdone for its slight texts, excessively busy, and sterile in its mechanical patterns, as if dependent on the words' rhythms for its propulsion, but totally detached from their sense or meaning. The Los Angeles Master Chorale and guest musicians, directed by Grant Gershon, plainly perform to Reich's rigorously high standards, and acquit themselves technically of their demanding parts; yet the rather depersonalized, hard-edged sound of both the singers and the instrumental ensemble is an acquired taste. Cello Counterpoint (2000), performed here by cellist Maya Beiser along with her prerecorded tracks, is provided as filler, and like other works in Reich's Counterpoint series its interlocking parts and staggered short gestures meld into larger, slower harmonic rhythms. Nonesuch's sound is clear and vibrant, and the packaging is quite handsome, but at a running time of 38:29, this is a rather skimpy offering.

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