Nonesuch releases Steve Reich’s Pulse / Quartet on February 2, 2018; the album is also available on vinyl LP on March 30. The album features two recent works by Reich: Pulse (2015) for large ensemble, performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and Quartet (2013) for two pianos and two vibraphones, performed by the Colin Currie Group.
ICE, called “the new gold standard for new-music” by The New Yorker, performed the world premiere of Pulse at Carnegie Hall’s “Reich at 80” celebration concert in November 2016. Quartet was written for Colin Currie and was premiered by the Colin Currie Group in October 2014 at London’s Southbank Centre.
It is based on a single, quirky melody in constant, telling transformation that is as close to a Beethoven late slow quartet movement that Reich is ever likely to get. The melody flows in ever changing canon.The lyricism, gorgeous instrumental textures and affecting harmonies spiritually alluring. The genius of “Pulse” is that you never really know where the score is going, just why it is going there.
…“pulse” is by no means the raison d’être of the music.Its the seamless, intertwining canons in the woodwind and strings that give the shape and character to this ravishing quarter-hour movement, with airy, weightless textures – as rapt and contemplative as anything in Reich’s output. – Quartet’s harmonic adventures and episodic structure have gone beyond what he had written before but, despite its discursiveness, remain instantly recognisable as Reich’s work, though the harmonic subtleties and the colours they paint here are beguilingly new.- The close-up perspective of the recordings suits both pieces perfectly.
—The Guardian (Andrew Clements)
Written for two vibraphones and two pianos, Quartet is Mr. Reich’s first piece for those two instruments alone, and the combination is ingenious and seductive, and deployed with subtle craftsmanship.
—New York Times
“Pulse”, played by the International Contemporary Ensemble, breaks new ground for the composer in its harmonic stasis: winds and strings inscribe a cyclical melodic line that seems to rise constantly over a steady pulse, weightlessly spiralling like thermal currents. The palette is tender, and the changes subtle: it’s like climbing a mountain, the same view altering by slight increments over the course of the ascent.
Quartet of 2013. Here, key changes are frequent and new ideas proliferate, creating a feeling of restless activity, often with a joyful spring in its step. The combination of two pianos and two vibraphones, a Reich favourite though usually as part of a larger ensemble, is heard this time on its own. Their percussive sounds shimmer and glow. Performances and recording alike are top drawer.
Something about Pulse/Quartet’s balance between geometric elegance and genuine emotiveness gets at the heart of what makes him a great composer. The playful movement lends a sense of humanity to the structure, and the structure lends rigors to the dance.
—The Wire (London)
Buy the album: Amazon | iTunes | Nonesuch Store