COMPOSERS: Steve Reich
LABELS: Cedille Records
ALBUM TITLE: Reich
WORKS: Mallet Quartet; Sextet; Nagoya Marimbas; Music for Pieces of Wood
PERFORMER: Third Coast Percussion
CATALOGUE NO: Cedille Records CDR 9000 161
Third Coast Percussion represents the third generation of performers to present Reich, impressively combining creative fearlessness with reverent precision. In Nagoya Marimbas tight-knit geometry releases free-wheeling exuberance. In this graceful, subtly nuanced performance, phrases are shaped with waves of minutely controlled dynamics: you won’t hear such luminously-voiced pianissimo even on the fine original recording (Nonesuch).
The long-form Sextet is, for me, one of Reich’s harder-to-love works, the chugging of two pianos tending to make it sound congested. Again, a decision to emphasise the interplay of strongly contrasting dynamics amplifies its scope, aided by a magnificent recorded sound in which every sonority burns through. With pianists David Friend and Oliver Hagen, there’s a sense of subterfuge in the ‘Moderate’ sections, explosive menace in ‘Slow’, while ‘Fast’ finds a slinky groove.
Mallet Quartet (2009) is a severe test and there are some loose corners in comparison to the dynamic So¯ Percussion (Nonesuch); yet the sound here has more depth, with a rich but contained resonance. In Music for Pieces of Wood (1973) they use slats of Purpleheart wood played along the edge of heavy wooden dowels. It’s a thrilling tour de force which achieves that elusive ‘swung’ effect, a hinted rubato teetering on the edge of control. Of the many fine recordings, this fast, foot-loose, whip-smart rollercoaster ride is the most virtuosic I’ve yet heard.