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Reich: "warm late period" continues with Double Sextet

Steve Reich’s “vigorous” Double Sextet has received performances in Ann Arbor, San Francisco, Costa Mesa, and New York City since the March 26 world premiere with eighth blackbird in Richmond, and the tour continues through Washington, DC, and Chicago next month before reaching the UK next fall. The 22-minute work has two performance options, either as a live sextet of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, vibraphone and piano playing against a pre-recorded sextet on tape, or as an ensemble of 12 instrumentalists. The result is “…the kind of explosion of fractured rhythms that never ceases to amaze the ear.” – Los Angeles Times

“Six musicians are playing a duet with recorded versions of themselves. It is like looking into an electronic mirror. The mirror refracts the rapid, driving beat of piano and marimba; it adds a reflected gleam to long-held chords of strings and winds. The players, live and recorded, create layer upon layer of sound, a rich mille-feuille of music, while pinwheeling light-images create visual parallels on the wall behind them.

“Reich…seems to continue in a warm late period that verges on the downright romantic. Reich is a rare composer who moves in a clear, straight line, developing his thoughts from one piece to the next; "Double Sextet" is obviously in the tradition of his other live/taped pieces, such as "New York Counterpoint." But in this piece, his rhythmic patterns became a background against which he held up chords as if examining them under the light, replacing his characteristic spareness with something verging on melodic richness (the slow movement opened with a tune in the strings that was practically a pop song).

“Reich has said he does not want to write again for orchestra -- that it is not a sound that interests him -- but this strong sextet touched on timbres and harmonies and depths that nodded, at least, in that direction.” – The Washington Post

The “‘Double Sextet’” begins with Mr. Reich’s signature chugging rhythms but quickly moves a fair distance, as intricate rhythmic counterpoint and thickening harmonies displace the repetitive opening figure. Parts of the score are almost episodic, with distinct shifts of mood set apart by percussive full stops. In one fleeting passage a lyrical violin-cello duet over a hazy accompaniment sounded like a lightly distorted glimpse into a 19th-century European ballroom. That didn’t last long: Mr. Reich’s insistent rhythms quickly returned, restoring the work to its contemporary moorings.” – The New York Times

View the full Performance Diary for Double Sextet

>  Further information on Work: Double Sextet

Photo: Alice Arnold/Nonesuch

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