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Central to international events marking Steve Reich's 75th birthday are the first European performances in May of WTC 9/11, his third major commission for the Kronos Quartet.

Following its first performance in the USA last month, Steve Reich's WTC 9/11 is toured to Europe in May by the Kronos Quartet. The European premiere is presented at the Barbican in London on 7 May and promises to be a highlight of the Reich Reverberations weekend, exploring the influence of the composer in his 75th year. Further performances follow at the Philharmonie in Essen (8 May), the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (13 May) and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival (17 May).

The new 15-minute work is a memorial to the victims of the World Trade Centre attack, combining the urgent, threnodic tribute of Daniel Variations with the integrated live quartet, quartets on tape, and pre-recorded voices first heard in Different Trains. WTC 9/11 is the third work for string quartet written by Reich for the Kronos Quartet, following Different Trains (1988) and Triple Quartet (1998) and the group plans to tour the new work extensively over coming seasons.

The quartet is cast in three movements as described by Reich: “In the first movement there are archive voices from NORAD air traffic controllers alarmed that American flight 11 was off course. This was the first plane to deliberately crash into the World Trade Center. The movement then shifts to the New York City Fire Department archives of that day telling what happened on the ground. The second movement uses recordings I made in 2010 of neighbourhood residents, an officer of the Fire Department and the first ambulance driver to arrive at the scene, remembering what happened nine years earlier.

“WTC is also an abbreviation for World to Come… After 9/11 the bodies and parts of bodies were taken to the Medical Examiner’s office on the East Side of Manhattan. In Jewish tradition there is an obligation to guard the body from the time of death until burial. The practice, called Shmira, consists of sitting near the body and reciting Psalms or Biblical passages…  Because of the difficulties in DNA identification, this went on for seven months, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Two of the women who sat and recited Psalms are heard in the third movement. You will also hear a cellist (who has sat Shmira elsewhere) and a cantor from a major New York City synagogue sing parts of Psalms and the Torah.”

WTC 9/11 was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by the Barbican in London, Carnegie Hall in New York, Duke Performances/Duke University, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. This commission was also made possible by the Chamber Music America Commissioning Program, with funding generously provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.

In addition to the European premiere of WTC 9/11, the Barbican's Reverberations: The influence of Steve Reich weekend (7/8 May) includes the UK premiere of Mallet Quartet performed by Hungarian percussionists Amadinda, and the London premieres of Double Sextet for ensemble and 2x5 for rock quintets played by eighth blackbird and Bang on a Can.

Other Reich events in honour of his 75th birthday presented in the coming months include:
* Drumming performed by the Colin Currie Group and Synergy Vocals in London (8/9 April), Bristol (11 May), Reading (11 June) and Cheltenham (3 July)
* Three Tales staged by Ensemble Modern and Synergy Vocals in Essen (16 April) and Cologne (13 June)
* a Carnegie Hall concert in New York showcasing four recent works (30 April)
* an all-Reich programme in the Future Everything festival at the RNCM in Manchester (12 May)
* the opening concert of the Sónar festival in Barcelona with bcn216 and Synergy Vocals (16 June).

> Barbican's Reverberations: the influence of Steve Reich (7/8 May)
> Philharmonie, Essen (8 May)
> Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (13 May)
> Norfolk and Norwich Festival (17 May)

> video with David Harrington of the Kronos Quartet
> video interview with Steve Reich

Photo: Jay Blakesberg

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