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Reich Album Releases Surrounding 80th Birthday

(December 2016)

ReichWebStory2012-CreditJeffreyHerman.jpg Multiple record labels and musicians have marked Reich’s 80th birthday year with an outpouring of new releases, as well as re-issues of landmark recordings from the composer’s prolific career.

In addition to hundreds of performances and specially curated series honoring Steve Reich’s 80th birthday this season, 2016 has seen the release of six major recordings of Reich’s works, including reissues of historic albums from the ’70s as well as new recordings of his lesser-known music.

In September, Sony Records released a double CD package by the Leipzig Radio Orchestra and Kristjan Järvi called Duet, featuring world premiere recordings of the orchestral versions of You Are (Variations) and Daniel Variations, as well as The Four Sections, Duet, and Clapping Music. Clapping Music is performed on this album by Reich with Järvi.

Deutsche Grammophon recently re-released an historical set of recordings made by Steve Reich and Musicians—its three-LP boxed set from 1974, reissued on special high-quality vinyl LPs: Drumming, Six Pianos, and Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ. The richly illustrated 28-page booklet includes Reich’s original essay and notes, plus the first publication of his original letters to the producer and the producer’s response about the recordings.

ECM Records released a limited edition set of its three historic recordings of Reich’s music: Music for 18 Musicians, Violin Phase / Music for a Large Ensemble / Octet, and Tehillim. Among the albums, recorded by Reich’s ensemble between 1976, 1980, and 1982, is "the definitive recording of his undisputed masterpiece Music for 18 Musicians," as described by Pitchfork. The 44-page accompanying booklet includes original liner notes by Steve Reich, a new essay by Paul Griffiths, and session photography by Deborah Feingold and Barbara Klemm.

Following their Diapason d’Or–winning recording of Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians last year, Ensemble Signal and Brad Lubman released a recording on Harmonia Mundi this past June of two recent pieces: Reich’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Double Sextet from 2007 and Radio Rewrite from 2013. The editors at Amazon said, "These strong, tuneful, energetic, tightly made works receive impassioned performances from Ensemble Signal, who The New York Times has called "one of the most vital groups of its kind." The Arts Desk wrote, "The positivity is intoxicating; this is smart feel-good music which never feels glib. Brad Lubman’s intrepid Ensemble Signal play with an accuracy and passion which defies description."

LSO Live released an album featuring the LSO Percussion Ensemble, who record a live performance of three Reich works: Sextet, Clapping Music, and Music for Pieces of Wood. Grammophon wrote, "Pieces of Wood is given an excellent rendition on this live recording, as if the precise mechanism of a complex clock had been carefully deconstructed before being pieced back together. The LSO percussion’s performance of Sextet (1985) also builds up in energy and momentum to a quite thrilling climax."

Third Coast Percussion’s new album of all-Reich percussion works was released in February 2016 on Cedille Records to great critical acclaim. Works featured on the album include Mallet Quartet, Sextet, Nagoya Marimbas, and Music for Pieces of Wood.

Next on the horizon will be a recording of Quartet by the Colin Currie Group, longtime champions of Reich’s work. The piece was written for the ensemble and premiered by them in 2014 at a sold-out concert at London’s Southbank Centre. The album will be released on Nonesuch on a date to be announced.

Photo: Jeffrey Herman

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