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Concerts to celebrate Steve Reich's 75th birthday year have included performances of his new work for the Kronos Quartet, WTC 9/11.

The Kronos Quartet toured Steve Reich’s WTC 9/11, a powerful memorial to the victims of the September 2001 attacks, to Europe in May with performances in London at the Barbican’s Reich Reverberations weekend, in Essen, Glasgow and Norwich.

Scored for string quartet playing live against two pre-recorded quartets and voices on tape, the new 15-minute work is Reich’s third for the Kronos Quartet following Different Trains and Triple Quartet, and was commissioned by the Barbican, Carnegie Hall, 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. 

“…a dark, raw, haunting piece, its detached fury indicative of the undiminished powers of a great American artist who will celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday in October. The beginning is singularly eerie: a sharp, gnawing dissonance in the strings, the sound of a telephone off the hook, and recorded voices of NORAD air-traffic controllers on the morning of 9/11. The ending is even eerier: after the consoling sound of a cantor singing the Wayfarer’s Prayer — ‘Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared’ — the dissonance of the opening returns, and we hear a voice saying, “And there’s the world right here.” In no uncertain tones, Reich suggests that history is circular, that horror will recur.”
The New Yorker

“…[WTC 9/11] combined [Reich’s] signature juxtaposition of taped and live instruments to the manipulation of the spoken word, in a sober memorial, as sad and brief as the catastrophe of Sept. 11 itself and as compact as a gravestone… a portrayal of the act of remembering.”
Washington Post

“…a restrained, taut piece in three continuous movements, almost ritualised in its plainness, and tremendously powerful in effect.”
The Guardian

The Kronos Quartet’s performance of WTC 9/11 will be included on a new Nonesuch disc in September, one of a number of recordings issued in the composer’s 75th birthday year. Chandos has released a disc of orchestral music conducted by Kristjan Järvi (CHSA 5091) in anticipation of his appearance with the London Symphony Orchestra on 15 October in an all-Reich programme including The Desert Music. Linn has recorded Kuniko in a new selection of Reich arrangements for solo percussion (CKD 385).

Reich 75th concert highlights in summer and autumn include
* the opening concert of the Sónar festival in Barcelona (16 June)
* Drumming at the Cheltenham Festival (3 July)
* an all-Reich late-night BBC Prom in London including Music for Eighteen Musicians (10 August)
* the Sacrum Profanum festival in Kraków presents a week of Reich events including Three Tales
(11-18 September)
* performances of The Cave at Musica Strasbourg and in Dresden (23 September, 12 October)
* the birthday month brings a Steve Reich Pulsations feature at Cité de la Musique in Paris (11-18 October).
* all-Reich programme by London Symphony Orchestra including The Desert Music (15 Oct)

Photo: Wonge Bergmann

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