martedì 4 settembre 2012

Review of Triple Quartet by Steve Reich, Nonesuch 2001

Italian Translation

We are in 2001 and the 65 year-old age Steve Reich has not yet ended his continuous exploration in the counterpoint and phasing labyrinth, and he shows it with this cd that picks up four among his happiest inspirations.
We start with Triple Quartet, composition written in 1998, commissioned and dedicated to Kronos Quartet, that has played it for the first time in the 22th of May 1999 to the Kennedy Center, to Washington DC. As it suggests its title, Triple Quartet is written for three strings quartets performed by the ensemble that plays on two traces recorded on tape, one for every quartet.
Steve Reich has declared:

« The piece is in three movements (fast–slow–fast) and is organized harmonically on four dominant chords in minor keys a minor third apart—E minor, G minor, B-flat minor, C-sharp minor—and then returning to E minor to form a cycle. The first movement goes through this harmonic cycle twice with a section about one minute long on each of the four dominant chords. The result is a kind of variation form. Rhythmically, the first movement has the second and third quartet playing interlocking chords while the first quartet plays longer melodies in canon between the first violin and viola against the second violin and cello. The slow movement is more completely contrapuntal, with a long, slow melody in canon eventually in all 12 voices. It stays in E minor throughout.
The third movement resumes the original fast tempo and maintains the harmonic chord cycle, but modulates back and forth between keys more rapidly. The final section of the movement is in the initial key of E minor, and there the piece finally cadences. »

"Electric Guitar Phase" already exists under the name of "Violin Phase", composed in the 1967. This version, transcribed and performed by Dominic Frasca, is the result of four parts for electric guitar designed to set up phasing patterns. The intro’s melody (look like a Eddie Van Halen’ piece) is doubled by a second guitar, then gradually sped up so that the second guitar plays an octave superior ahead of the original melody. As the other parts are added, the melody changes in subtile and imperceptible way producing a charming process in which moments of stagnation and evolution are alternated. "Music for Large Ensemble" is originally dated 1977 and approachable to "Music for 18 Musicians" (from the same period) and composed for an ensemble of 30 people. "Tokyo / Vermont Counterpoint" it is originally of 1981 (original title Vermont Counterpoint) and is performed only by a musician, the percussionist Mika Yoshida. If the original version is for flutes and piccolos, this one is for MIDI marimbas and xylophones, an original and ironic solution that avoids buzzing sounds overlaps. This cd doesn't introduce, apart the interesting arrangments by Frasca and Yoshida, any big novelties in the minimalist repertoire of Reich, but the music are indeed beautiful and who loves to play unusual and original things for the electric guitar should not neglect "Electric Guitar Phase." Highly recommended.
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