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Two major festival features for Steve Reich are presented by Radio France and the Hallé in Manchester in early February. The Présences series of 11 concerts in Paris includes the European premiere of Reich’s most recent work Jacobs’s Ladder, while Colin Currie leads a three-day collaboration between the Hallé orchestra and the Royal Northern College of Music.

Steve Reich’s music is centre stage in Paris between 5 and 11 February with a major focus at Radio France’s Présences festival. Repertoire across the 11 concerts include the first European performance of Reich’s most recent work Jacob’s Ladder and French premieres of Reich/Richter and Music for Ensemble and Orchestra. Highlights also include Jonny Greenwood in Electric Counterpoint, Drumming in a performance led by Colin Currie, and concerts featuring the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Orchestre National de France.

> Présences festival in Paris

Jacob’s Ladder, performed in Paris by the Ensemble Intercontemporain and Synergy Vocals conducted by George Jackson, sets Biblical texts describing Jacob’s vision of a ladder between Heaven and Earth, with angels ascending and descending. The 20-minute score was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic (Jaap van Zweden, Music Director), BBC Radio 3, Fundação Casa da Música Porto, Istanbul Music Festival and Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, Queen Silvia Concert Hall and O/Modernt, Radio France and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Composed earlier this year, the work was premiered in New York’s Lincoln Center in October, and the Paris performance is followed in February by the Swedish premiere in Stockholm within O/Modernt’s Winter Festival at the Queen Silvia Concert Hall.

Steve Reich comments on the background to Jacob’s Ladder: “At first thought, a musical equivalent to a ladder might well be a scale or mode. The messengers (the Hebrew word also means angels) ascending and descending then become notes on that scale or mode. Of course, one sometimes only goes up a few rungs to reach something and then descends, or perhaps climbs higher, pauses, and then descends pausing at each rung on the way down. Finally, it becomes clear that metaphorically any melodic musical movement on a scale or mode is included in this dream of ascending and descending a ladder between heaven and earth.”

The concert with Jacob’s Ladder on 6 February at the Maison de la Radio et de la Musique in Paris also includes the French premiere of Reich/Richter, the composer’s collaboration with visual artist Gerhard Richter. The 40-minute multi-media work, combining a film by Richter and Corinna Belz with live ensemble music, has received over 100 performances to date, following its extended initial run at The Shed in New York in 2019.

Also in February, the Hallé presents a three-day celebration of Steve Reich in Manchester, combining musicians from the orchestra with students from the Royal Northern College of Music and Chetham’s School of Music (1-3 February). The three concerts, conducted by leading Reich interpreter Colin Currie, take place at The Bridgewater Hall and Hallé St Peter’s and provide a varied survey across the composer’s output, from chamber to orchestral.

The opening concert on 1 February features Reich’s recent Music for Ensemble and Orchestra and The Desert Music for choir and orchestra, setting texts by William Carlos Williams. The following day brings a lunchtime concert with Colin Currie joining Hallé percussionists in Mallet Quartet, together with Radio Rewrite inspired by two Radiohead songs. Jonny Greenwood himself is guitar soloist in Electric Counterpoint in the final concert on 3 February, which also features Runner for large ensemble, The Four Sections for orchestra, and finally Reich/Richter combining music and film.

> Reich festival in Manchester

>  Further information on Work: Jacob's Ladder

Photo: Jeffrey Herman

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