Reich: New York Counterpoint; Eight Lines; Four Organs

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LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: New York Counterpoint; Eight Lines; Four Organs
PERFORMER: Bang on a Can
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79481-2
For the composers Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe, who began the Bang on a Can Festival in New York and the performing group that grew out of it, Steve Reich has become a patron saint. All three would acknowledge that their own distinct musical styles owe something to his example, while Reich himself has publicly declared his approval of what they are attempting to do in fusing the techniques of minimalism with the hard edges and rhythmic drive of American rock music. So this collection is a kind of homage by Bang on a Can to their guru, and by concentrating on three of the ‘purest’ of his instrumental works, they show how it is possible to see in fine detail the musical processes that underpin all of his music. Four Organs, the earliest work here, strips the repetitive principles of minimalism down to the bone, and 30 years after it was written it still seems a savage, uncompromising piece. By the time of the octet Eight Lines, nine years later, the edges of its tightly interlocking canons are much softer and Reich felt able to delight in beauty of sound for its own sake, while the tapestry created by the pulsing harmonies and surging riffs of the multi-tracked clarinets in New York Counterpoint (12 instruments altogether), is so sumptuous that it hardly seems to be generated by a single instrumental colour at all. Andrew Clements