WORKS: City Life; Sextet; Vermont Counterpoint; Clapping Music
PERFORMER: Roberto Fabbriciani (flutes); Nextime Ensemble/Danilo Grassi, Contempoartensemble/Mauro Ceccanti
CATALOGUE NO: 47624-2
Any programme of Reich’s shorter works is bound to have its own fascinations and this one, in which Italian musicians establish their claim alongside better-known ensembles including the composer’s own, is no exception. Working backwards over three decades from the urban polyphony of 1995 to the Clapping Music for four hands, it starts with a potent reminder of City Life’s renewed topicality; the distinctive, urgent speech melodies and rhythms of the last movement take their cue from communications between New York city firefighters during the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing. As the voices and street sounds of city life are set up on samplers rather than tape, there’s an optional freedom of performance, and this one is slightly less taut and urgent than that of the Steve Reich Ensemble on Nonesuch.
The Sextet interpretation, though, is a beauty, both in the built-in freedom of delivery and the stunning sound-recording of tongs and bones. Roberto Fabbriciani joins his six recorded selves on flute, alto flute and piccolo in the blithe Vermont Counterpoint, and the two clap-happy Italians make a crisp challenge to the famous partnership of Reich and Russell Hartenberger. All this constitutes a good introduction to
a towering figure on the late 20th-century scene. David Nice