Feature

Steve Reich

Steve Reich's new work includes a piece composed in commemoration of the journalist, Daniel Pearl.

Steve Reich
Daniel Variations; Variations for Vibes, Pianos, and Strings

(Nonesuch)

***

Steve Reich’s compositions can be divided into two categories: the personal and the impersonal, said Steve Smith in The New York Times. In the first half of his career, the American composer often produced music more concerned with technique than emotion. Yet during the last 20 years Reich has revealed a more expressive side, creating music “charged with issues of identity, spirituality, and cultural politics.” The four-movement Daniel Variations, a “work of contemplative commemoration” composed in response to the murder of The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl in 2002, sets text from the Bible’s Book of Daniel alongside some by the journalist himself. Scored for four pianos, string quartet, clarinets, and percussion, it “merits and rewards repeated explorations.” It’s hard not to be moved by the piece, said Geoff Brown in the London Times. But Reich’s dense scoring seems to stifle the Los Angeles Master Chorale, occasionally drowning out the vocals. Fortunately, the livelier and stronger Variations for Vibes, Pianos, and Strings manages “to compensate.” The piece “displays Reich’s musical inventiveness at its ebullient and infectious best,” said Pwyll ap Sion in Gramophone. Performed by the London Sinfonietta, the composition remarkably encapsulates the breadth of Reich’s ouvre, from his “early minimalist style” to the rich, complex techniques that mark his music today.

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