Third Coast Percussion – Steve Reich Mallet Quartet; Sextet; Nagoya Marimbas; Music for Pieces of…

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Third Coast Percussion - Steve Reich Mallet Quartet; Sextet; Nagoya Marimbas; Music for Pieces of...

Third Coast Percussion – Steve Reich:
Mallet Quartet; Sextet; Nagoya Marimbas; Music for Pieces of Wood (2016)

EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue&Log) ~ 322 Mb | Scans included | Time: 01:02:27
Classical, Minimalism | Label: Cedille | # CDR 90000 161

GRAMMY WINNER, 59TH AWARDS: Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance. Third Coast Percussion has been saluted by the Washington Post for its virtuosity and precisely timed wit, and was called by the New York Times a commandingly elegant ensemble. The group, which is ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame, teaches and performs a concert series in Chicago, and has commissioned dozens of new works. This album is the ensembles Cedille label debut, and is an 80th birthday acknowledgement to American composer Steve Reich, the founding father of musical minimalism. This recording features four of Reichs most notable percussion works.

Steve Reich’s music for (mostly) mallet percussion will either hold you enthralled or knock you unconscious, but there’s no in-between. One thing is certain: the musical idiom perfectly suits the instrumentation. Even Music for Pieces of Wood, which can sound like the noise your refrigerator makes when the ice maker is on the fritz, offers a fascinatingly musical study in rhythm and-yes-harmony, amazingly produced with only a few fixed pitches. At least, it does that in these superb performances.

This is extremely challenging music to produce effectively. It has to be played with machine-like precision, but at the same time it ought not to sound machine-like. In these performances there is a buoyancy to the perpetually pulsating rhythms in the Mallet Quartet and (above all) the lengthy Sextet that somehow conveys that joy in movement that seems to be what this music is all about-to the extent it’s about anything at all. Those gently but inexorably shifting rhythmic and harmonic patterns spring vividly to life.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend playing through the disc at a sitting, unless of course you’re planning on spending a full hour in a trance or some other meditative state. One thing is certain: the sonics are just perfect-amazingly lifelike, placing the ensemble in an ideal acoustic so that the actual timbres never become fatiguing. We haven’t heard much from Reich lately, on disc at least. Here’s a potent reminder of what an original musical force he was, and still is.

Percussion music represents an important strand in the output of minimalist composer Steve Reich, and this release by the ensemble Third Coast Percussion, whose members cheerfully admit they weren’t even born when Reich first came on the scene, shows how the genre has continued to interest him. The works involved span several decades, from Music for Pieces of Wood (1973) to 2009’s Mallet Quartet. It’s notable that Reich’s language, unlike those of his minimalist-pioneer compatriots, hasn’t fundamentally changed during this period. Instead, he explores percussion-defined spaces and processes in different ways. The Nagoya Marimbas (1996) receives a performance that, in the words of the players, “blends the characteristic Reich marimba sound with an expressive, nuanced approach to dynamic shaping”; the upshot seems to be a reading that lands toward the communicative end of the spectrum of Reich performances. Music for Pieces of Wood, one of the original works in which Reich transferred his electronic phase-process discoveries to the realm of live musicians, remains as entrancing as it was 43 years before this album was released. With crack modern players who have new wrinkles to contribute, this is a fine survey of Reich’s percussion music, released in 2016 and a fitting tribute in the composer’s 80th-birthday year.

Third Coast Percussion - Steve Reich Mallet Quartet; Sextet; Nagoya Marimbas; Music for Pieces of...

Tracklist:

Mallet Quartet
01. I. Fast (6:39)
02. II. Slow (3:16)
03. III. Fast (5:03)

Sextet
04. I. Fast (11:17)
05. II. Moderate (4:23)
06. III. Slow (2:32)
07. IV. Moderate (3:36)
08. V. Fast (6:34)

09. Nagoya Marimbas (4:48)

10. Music for Pieces of Wood (14:20)

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