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Reich: Pulse; Quartet

International Contemporary Ensemble and Colin Currie Group (Nonesuch)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Reich Pulse; Quartet*
International Contemporary Ensemble; *Colin Currie Group
Nonesuch 7559793243 30:57 mins


Some have suggested these two recent works – Pulse (2015) and Quartet (2013) – represent a decline in Reich’s creative rigour. Certainly, his trademark driving energy has been replaced by something looser, more varied and reflective. But like the work of many composers in their last years – think Debussy, Tippett, Elliott Carter – these pieces radiate a quiet wonder, lending them poignant weight. There’s more than a hint of nostalgia in Pulse: it opens with rising-sun spirals, recalling Copland’s Appalachian Spring, but also the A major start of Music for 18 Musicians. The instrumentalists of the International Contemporary Ensemble bring melting refinement to their sustained, song-like phrases, the electric bass providing gentle impetus. A sense of free-wheeling play propels Quartet, too. Written for the Colin Currie Group, it was partly inspired by a photo sent to Reich by Nico Muhly of a shop window, ‘keys made fast and accurate’. In a traditional fast-slow-fast form, Reich switches keys and rhythmic patterns at a dizzying rate. Colin Currie Group’s pianos and marimbas form an impressively organic body, swinging jazzy riffs with masterly skill. While the outer movements dance, with irregular syncopation and open, ever-shifting harmonies, the middle movement finds a glassy stillness, the marimbas beguiling and translucent. What lingers are those moments of intoxicating hush.


Helen Wallace