Steve Reich Concert, London Sinfonietta & Synergy Vocals, St David’s Hall

February 17, 2019 by
There is a pull to Reich music, some might just call it gimmicks. The related patterns and pulsating rhythms that exist in all of the work, are his hallmark, instantly recognisable on first hearing and left as ear worms for hours after. The London Sinfonietta makes this music their own, with extra support from the Synergy Vocals, resulting in a concert which is familiar to those who know the music, but none the less remarkable.
Whilst the opening Clapping Music demonstrates his famous phasing, where one player repeats a pattern and another will do the same, just a beat off, this idea works better in his other work. The piece was created as a resource to create music without having to worry about the mass of electronic instruments being taken on tour.
The brief Nagoya Marimbas has more melody here and the two players are deep in focus as they endure this much more complex work than his previous music from years before. The Mallet Quartet is a sublime work for two marimbas and two vibraphones. The vibes feature much less frequently than the eternal marimba and here we hear their softly perfumed tang in all their joy. Canon is king is a piece like this as all players get to take their turn in these repeated shifts. A more recent composition which will hopefully remain part of the repertoire.
Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians is the big guns of the concert and his undisputed masterpiece. This is where his aesthetic is defined in this hour-long work, featuring four pianos a mass of marimbas, vibes, female singers, 2 strings and woodwind and even some maracas. Allowing the luscious score to wash over you, make for a great concert experience as the joy of spring lives in this subtle yet relentless bombardment.
The energy of the sound is also mirrored by the musicians themselves who change places at the percussion and pianos. The symmetry of their movement is some times poetic, whilst their flurry of notes and motions create a mesmerising tapestry, mind melting in its creative process. Synergy Vocals (who have made Reich their own for years), bring flashes of voice throughout, a surprising display of scatting that spices the orchestration to a finer taste.
It music which should be heard on it on terms and heard live.

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