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Steve Reich: Tehillim; The Desert Music

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - EJ Johnson
By the early 1980s, there was very little about Steve Reich's music that was still strictly minimalist. Once grouped with Philip Glass and the other reductivist composers who came to the fore in the 1960s, Reich had moved on to large-scale works for chamber ensembles that were far grander in size and scope than his earliest compositions. Tehillim 1981 and The Desert Music 1984, here in a 2001 revision are Reich's most elaborate pieces from this period, featuring the composer's characteristic pulsating rhythms and slowly shifting harmonies -- a musical language that arrived with Reich's breakthrough Drumming from 1971 and grew with 1976's Music for 18 Musicians. Yet ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - EJ Johnson
By the early 1980s, there was very little about Steve Reich's music that was still strictly minimalist. Once grouped with Philip Glass and the other reductivist composers who came to the fore in the 1960s, Reich had moved on to large-scale works for chamber ensembles that were far grander in size and scope than his earliest compositions. Tehillim 1981 and The Desert Music 1984, here in a 2001 revision are Reich's most elaborate pieces from this period, featuring the composer's characteristic pulsating rhythms and slowly shifting harmonies -- a musical language that arrived with Reich's breakthrough Drumming from 1971 and grew with 1976's Music for 18 Musicians. Yet Tehillim and The Desert Music also marked a departure for Reich: He called on his vocalists to sing texts, not just nonsense syllables, as in earlier pieces. Tehillim is a setting of portions of four Hebrew Psalms, while The Desert Music takes a series of William Carlos Williams's poems as inspiration. Both works have been recorded before: The Desert Music was originally released on Nonesuch in 1985 and Tehillim on ECM in '82. But as with all great music, repeated hearings enhance appreciation, especially with performances as fine as these. Here, conductor Alan Pierson and two ensembles from the Eastman School of Music, Ossia and Alarm Will Sound, offer a first-class recording. Ensemble balance and clarity are exemplary, and the vocalists, singing early-music-style with a pure tone and no vibrato, reveal the crystalline quality of the music in ideal fashion. In its revised form, The Desert Music has been reorchestrated somewhat and the number of players reduced. All the better to experience Reich's dazzling sonic textures as they gradually evolve from one to the next.
All Music Guide - Jeremy Grimshaw
Alarm Will Sound's recording of Steve Reich's monumental orchestral/choral works "The Desert Music" and "Tehillim," released on the Cantaloupe label in 2002, greatly benefits from the group's close connections with the composer: the ensemble's conductor, Alan Pierson, and several of the performers studied at the Eastman School with Brad Lubman, a conductor frequently enlisted by Reich. Also, Pierson's arrangements, which reconcile the chamber and orchestral versions that exist for both works, were prepared in close consultation with the composer; thus, this may well be the definitive recording of these pieces. Brilliantly sonorous in their climaxes -- the burst of light near the end of "Desert Music," the "Alleluias" that close "Tehillim" -- the players also articulate Reich's intricate canonic textures with nimble precision. Voices and strings are always an Achilles heel within Reich's percussive textures leading him to eliminate part doublings in favor of giving each line to a lone, amplified performer, but here the singers and strings maintain an impressive rhythmic vitality. This knack for precision carries over to the pristine recording, as well, which, for good or ill, was digitally recorded and heavily edited. Still, it makes up in energy and clarity what it might lack in performative spontaneity.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/10/2002
  • Label: Cantaloupe
  • UPC: 713746272128
  • Catalog Number: 21009
  • Sales rank: 15,268

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–4 Tehillim, for 3 sopranos, alto, winds, strings, percussion & keyboards - Steve Reich & Julia Wolfe (30:55)
  2. 5–11 The Desert Music, chamber version - Steve Reich & Julia Wolfe (43:48)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Steve Reich Primary Artist
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