STEVE RE­ICH: Mu­sic for 18 Mu­si­cians (Har­mo­nia Mundi)

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In the fine book­let es­say ac­com­pa­ny­ing this el­e­gant re­lease, new-mu­sic pro­moter Ash­ley Capps re­calls turn­ing a cor­ner in New York’s Soho neigh­bor­hood in 1977 and hear­ing “the mu­sic float­ing down the street — a richly tex­tured pul­sat­ing rhythm with a beau­ti­ful, in­tri­cate, re­peat­ing melody danc­ing lightly above it,” a sound that left him feel­ing “sud­denly and re­mark­ably lu­cid, in a state of in­tense hy­per-aware­ness.” That hits it on the head, and it ex­plains why Steve Re­ich’s Mu­sic for 18 Mu­si­cians, the piece Capps heard that day, be­came an in­stant hit and ul­ti­mately a clas­sic. Min­i­mal­ism was just then cut­ting its shim­mer­ing path through a turgid land­scape over­grown with du­ti­ful se­ri­al­ism, and of the min­i­mal­ists who were clear­ing the way, Re­ich stood out as par­tic­u­larly re­fined in his buoy­ancy. Con­duc­tor Brad Lub­man, a Re­ich afi­cionado for years, here over­sees the En­sem­ble Sig­nal in a read­ing whose close-up acous­tic lends such clar­ity of lines that you might imag­ine you are seated within the en­sem­ble. The work’s 14 sec­tions un­roll seam­lessly, a jolt ar­riv­ing mid­way through, in Sec­tion VIII, with a siz­zle of mara­cas and the en­try of four per­fectly tuned, word­less singers. This is not a work to in­gest piece­meal. Com­mit a full hour to it, turn off your cell phone, and send your ears to this sonic spa to sim­ply go with the pul­sat­ing flow.

— James M. Keller

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