Steve Reich: Pulse/Quartet review – Still challenging what music can be

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Artist: Steve Reich
Genre: Classical
Label: Nonesuch

Pulse/Quartet presents two contrasting works from revered US composer Steve Reich in counter-chronological order. Written in 2015 for winds, strings, piano and electric bass, Pulse is a lush, almost pastoral work, reportedly inspired by Daft Punk and played here by trailblazing New York collective, the International Contemporary Ensemble. Quartet, completed two years previously, is more typically Reichian, a three-part work for two pianos and two vibraphones in which the pulse is the main character.

Of the latter composition, Reich has said that “the piece is one of the more complex I have composed. It frequently changes key and often breaks off continuity to pause or take up new material. Though the parts are not unduly difficult, it calls for a high level of ensemble virtuosity.”

That virtuosity is delivered here by Reich specialists, the Colin Currie Group, to whom the composer dedicated the work. At 80, Reich continues to challenge the idea of what music can be, and if today it all sounds a little less original, it is simply the result of the great composer’s towering influence on all the music that has followed in his wake.

Cormac Larkin

Cormac Larkin

Cormac Larkin, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a musician, writer and director