Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cleveland Museum of Art: Ensemble Signal: Music of Steve Reich (@ClevelandArt)

Reich: Sextet (1984) (Jamie Dietz, Doug Perkins, Bill Solomon, David Skidmore, David Friend, Lisa Moore)
Reich: Double Sextet (2007) (Courtney Orlando, Olivia DePrato, Lauren Radnofsky, Caitlin Sullivan, Kelli Kathman, Jessica Schmitz, Bill Kalinkos, Ken Thomson, Doug Perkins, David Skidmore, David Friend, Lisa Moore)
Brad Lubman, conductor; Paul Coleman, sound director.

I first consciously heard Steve Reich's music in the form of New York Counterpoint played by Elinor Rufeizen at her Junior Recital at CIM and then again in the Museum's Contemporary Galleries. This year marks Steve Reich's 75th birthday and over that period of time his music and from of minimalism have snuck into culture through film and other avenues.

Sextet, from 1984 the first piece on tonight's program, was heavily percussive and shared many of the same textures and feelings of New York Counterpoint, and like that piece I loved the vibrant feeling of the energy of an urban landscape that evolves. While sometimes ambiguous (in the program note the composer observes "In music which uses a great deal of repetition, I believe it is precisely these kinds of ambiguities that give vitality and life") the overlapping sounds and constant motion gave a nicely drifting focus from instrument to instrument. Pushing forward it was interesting to hear as impulses from the vibraphone had effects of rippling through the pattern established by the other instruments, like a drop of water disturbing the glassy surface of a still lake.

Taking yet a different feeling, the piece earns a slower, more dark and ominous feeling making me think of a dark side street near a happening district at night. That feeling didn't last long with a dramatic shift and punctuated change to brighter sounds that would have been right at home in a busy elevator lobby with cars quickly arriving and departing with the accompanying chimes, transitioning into what I scribbled to myself as a "time clock tango" with the hustle at the end of a shift to punch out and go home -- with the next feeling being unquestionably one of rush hour.

Throughout the piece the insistent, driving, feeling of the percussion was stunning.

After intermission, Double Sextet finished the program. According to the program note it can be performed either by a single sextet playing against a recorded iteration of itself or by two different sextets simultaneously occupying the stage. The use of a single group of musicians playing against is similar to the technique in New York Counterpoint, and is an interesting challenge for the performer. Tonight's performer was the much rarer true double sextet and while I didn't have any clear images formed while listening to the piece it was interesting to hear the relationship between instruments at any given moment and the amazing cohesiveness (Honestly, 12 different musicians playing 6 different instruments, rarely--if ever--playing the same thing, has to be a difficult feat to pull off). Once the initial bright energy faded a more melancholy sound emerged and the sound that hovered over the ensemble made me think of a slowly played accordion.

After the performance it was interesting to hear reactions -- virtually everyone enjoyed the concert, but if you asked someone to pick a favorite the results were nearly perfectly split. 


No comments:

Post a Comment