Reich: Double Sextet

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Reich
LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: Double Sextet; 2 x 5
PERFORMER: eighth blackbird; Bang on a Can
CATALOGUE NO: 519823

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Steve Reich admits he no longer feels the need to reinvent himself, and trusts that his familiar technique of building layered patterns over a driving beat, with constantly shifting accents, will yield some surprises.

This new CD, which contains two recent chamber pieces, shows that that faith is not entirely misplaced. The rock-band soundworld of 2 x 5 is certainly new. Reich’s sense of proportion, his ability to change direction just at the right moment, is as sure as ever. And the Double Sextet contains one of Reich’s beautiful laments, where his Jewish heritage comes to the fore.

So there are good things on the CD, though some of the invention, especially in 2 x 5, seems routine.

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The problem for me is the sound. The patter of semiquavers and the off-beat accents are bang on, the recorded sound is perfect – but perfect in a way that sounds antiseptic, as if the players were all shut in separate airtight boxes. In general the performances seem too polite and restrained. What’s the point of having a rock band if it can’t rock a little? Ivan Hewett