Reich: WTC 9/11

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Reich
LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: WTC 9/11: A Reflection on the 2001 Attacks on the World Trade Center; Mallett Quartet; Dance Patterns
PERFORMER: Kronos Quartet; Sõ Percussion; members of Steve Reich and Musicians
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79645-7

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Reich has never been shy of political engagement, from his early tape masterpiece, Come Out (1966), via such works as Different Trains (1988), the multimedia project The Cave (1990-93), and the Daniel Variations (2006), right up to this Reflection on the 2001 Attacks on the World Trade Center. WTC 9/11 continues Reich’s association with the Kronos Quartet, begun with Different Trains, and uses similar techniques, interweaving music for multi-tracked string quartet with rhythmic fragments of speech from which motifs for the quartet are derived. Here, Reich uses recordings of air-traffic controllers, fire-fighters, friends and neighbours, and women who kept vigil over the dead. The strings, dry yet emotional, act almost like a Greek chorus around the voices, which carry a potent charge.

Even some of Reich’s staunchest fans have felt he was treading water in some of his recent works, but WTC 9/11 finds him on outstanding form: his skilful selection and manipulation of sound resources has created an emotionally raw evocation of the shock, terror and sheer incredulity of that day.

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Mallet Quartet (2009) and Dance Patterns (2002) are quintessential Steve Reich, instantly recognisable from their patterns and textures (vibraphones, marimbas, xylophones and percussive pianos) but, again, the familiar is re-vivified in these fresh, sparkling and agile pieces. The bonus DVD of Mallet Quartet, filmed with admirable directorial restraint, provides
an interesting visual aid for the more complex passages. Barry Witherden