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on November 2, 2001
The music on this "new" Steve Reich release falls into two distinct categories:
ACTUAL NEW MATERIAL (15 minutes)
"Triple Quartet": A slight improvement over other recent ventures ("The Cave," "City Life"), however quite grating to listen to... a lack of critical rhythmic interest with static mildly dissonant harmonic content combines for an unrewarding listen that seems to go on for longer than the 14 minutes it actually lasts. A major disappointment compared to "Different Trains," the previous Kronos collaboration.
RECYCLED FILLER MATERIAL (40 minutes)
1. "Electric Guitar Phase": When this same piece is heard as "Violin Phase" (on the 1980 ECM recording) it's long and somewhat tedious yet rewarding upon further listening with an exciting virtuoso feel that a live violinist brings to the table. As performed on overdubbed electric guitars, it is devoid of humanity and fire, losing all hope of holding the listeners attention for the duration. Why this piece seemed worth recording on electric guitar is beyond me. Ugh.
2. "Music for a Large Ensemble": This arrangement/performance is a little cleaner and more transparent than its ECM cousin (that same record that had "Violin Phase" on it. Hmmm.) You can hear some details here that weren't as apparent on the older recording. However, despite the shiny finish, this performance seems to lack the fresh energy and attack heard on the ECM version. So an interesting listen for the overly Reich-obsessed, but nothing revelatory.
3. "Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint": Completely inferior to the version for flutes as recorded by Ransom Wilson. It is a damn shame that this recording is unavailable on CD at this time: it is a performance brimming with energy, humanity and humor, a virtuoso tour-de-force. As performed on "MIDI Marimbas" (whatever that means) it sounds hollow, monochromatic, electronic, and dull. Blah.
OVERALL: Yet another disappointing Nonesuch Reich release, 75% unsuccessful recycling, 25% sub-standard new material. And I write this as a 10+ year admirer and fan of Steve Reich's music desperately wanting to like this CD. Rats.
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on November 4, 2001
Last year I purchased the 'complete' Steve Reich works on Nonesuch and was confused as to the missing works. This, save for 'phase patterns' and 'pendullum music', completes it.

Electric guitar phase is amazing. I'd only heard its origional version for violin a few times and the middle and ending were too muddy. The treble and subtle harmonic overtones on the guitar are much better. The best thing about the phasing technique though is that rush you get everytime a new phase locks in. Wow!
I agree with the reviewer below who noticed that the 'Large Ensemble' was not as tight as they could be. The sheer syncopation written into this piece demands aboslute precision and I came away feeling that it hadn't been achieved here. In contrast, I could have done with a less tight vermont counterpoint. THe beauty of all Reich's couterpoint works have been that they allow the ear to 'pick' between following the whole or an individual line. I found this impossible to do here.
THe anchor of the CD (Triple Quartet) was brilliant. I wish that the two other versions (orchestral string section and three quartets live) could've been on the CD as well. In closing the first two peices are the meat and potatoes. The last two peices despite in my opinion their performance flaws, serve as a worthy soup and salad.
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on November 1, 2001
This is one of those rare recordings where I have no complaints...from the quality of the music to the quality of the performances to the quality of the packaging...this is the kind of thing that the classical music industry should be looking to if it hopes to revive it's dreadful record sales...
Instead of going in order of the tracks on the disc, let me go in order of the date of composition of each piece.
Electric Guitar Phase, though new in this orchestration, is of course 1967's Violin Phase reborn...This might be Reich's most static piece for tradional instruments (that is, besides early pieces for tape or "pendulum music")...For me, the original version of this piece never quite worked - the articulations possible on violin kept it from really "locking in"...This version has solved that problem completely...
The sharp attack on each note or dyad when done on electric guitars makes every new pattern clearer than any violinist could hope for...it's truly a revelation to hear this piece work so well. I always thought "piano phase" to be the best of Reich's phase pieces...I was wrong. This new recording should make listeners really sit up and take note - classical music ain't what it used to be, and thank G-d...one of our greatest composer's best pieces turns out to be for a bunch of electric guitars!
The next work (chronologically) is "Large Ensemble"...compared to the old ECM recording, I'm not convinced that this ensemble is playing as tightly as this piece needs them to...but at the same time, the sound quality is of course much better and warmer than the old recording. This one you can judge for yourself. I haven't totally made up my mind one way or another on this one...
Tokyo Counterpoint deserves some praise - I think that Reich is right when, in the liner notes, he points out that this transcription has a "sense of humor"...the playing is very tight. I am inclined to say that I like this version better than the original for flutes...in most ways I do, but the warmth of the flutes is missed. Either way, this is a very fine rendering.
The Kronos piece, although the most "high profile" of the works on here, I will not say much about it - others on here already have and echo many of my sentiments. It is a great piece, as you've surely heard is much indebted to Bartok, and is quite a departure for Reich...We know Kronos plays it great, we know the sound quality is great, and the piece works well in one long stroke from beginning to end, the three movements flowing into each other seamlessly.
One of the best Reich recordings out there.
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on October 19, 2001
The first piece on this disc--the Triple Quartet--may be startling to listeners familiar with Steve Reich's music. A sort of "polychoral" work for three quartets (or, as in this case, a single quartet accompanied by recordings of itself), it sounds a lot less like `Music for Eighteen Musicians' than it sounds like, well, the soundtrack to `Psycho'. Reich has masterfully extended his pulsing, mathematical musical style to incorporate rich, expressionistic harmonies and melodies. You heard that right, I said "melodies"--this piece is actually quite lyrical at times, though it never fully escapes a slightly mechanical quality.
The next piece, on the other hand, may be one of the most unlistenably strident pieces Reich has ever written. It's 'Electric Guitar Phase,' a new adaptation of his `Violin Phase' (1967) performed on distorted electric guitar. Fans of Reich's phase-music know that its glacially slow development can be truly exhilirating, and will take immediately to the fresh spin this new instrumentation puts on a classic piece; those less familiar should consider themselves warned--it can also, depending on the listener, be EXCRUCIATING. (Me? Well, I love it.)
The last two pieces, originally composed within a few years of each other, fall somewhere between the first two both chronologically and stylistically--much easier on the ears than Electric Guitar Phase, but also more recognizably "minimalistic" than the Triple Quartet. `Music for Large Ensemble' is cerebral and pleasant, and `Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint' (an adaptation of `Vermont Counterpoint' from flutes to electronic percussion) is charmingly silly and just as smart. Nothing really shocking there, but a handsome end to a very interesting set of recordings.
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on October 18, 2001
Nonesuch has slowly been bringing out new recordings of Steve Reich's works that were previously available on other labels, so it's no surprise to find that once again a new release contains some old material too. In this case we get the excellent Music for a Large ensemble along with variations on Violin Phase (now orchestrated for electric guitar) and Vermont Counterpoint (in a version for `MIDI Marimbas'). The new piece, Triple Quartet, is a development from the Counterpoint series (where a solo performer plays against multiple taped versions of him or herself, playing other parts) and the result is at turns energetic and opulent. The opening movement thunders and gallops along, the interaction of the three quartets supplying a powerful and ambiguous rhythmic structure. Somehow, Reich seems to be able to endow any instrument or ensemble with percussive power. The second movement starts with a single voice, gradually joined by others until all twelve instruments play together in a glorious, lyrical, plaintive canon, in which the nods to traditional Jewish music are most apparent. In the final movement the fast pace bursts out again and brings the piece to an end. Power and beauty both.
Electric Guitar Phase is... interesting. If I'm honest, the early phase pieces have always seemed to me more remarkable as conceptual demonstrations than as listening experiences. Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint, though, is a delight. Reich says in the sleeve notes that it has a sense of humour, which I'm not sure wasn't meant as a backhanded compliment, but it did make me smile and it's sharp as a pin. Music for a Large Ensemble though is the other real treasure on the disc (along with the Quartet). It gets a vibrant performance here, warmer than the original and reminding me at times of a gypsy band for some reason. To quibble just a little, it does seem a little muddy at times - I'm not quite sure why. Maybe a lack of thrust and definition in the bass chords?
Now, if I have one gripe, it's that we don't get a recording of the only other new Reich piece of the last few years - Know What Is Above You. Come on Steve fella, I know you've been slaving away on `Three Tales', but only twenty minutes of completed material in five years or so and we don't even get all of that? And while I've got you, what's happening about the long-awaited Cello Counterpoint? And can we have a recording of the chamber version of The Desert Music? A new Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards? Oh heck, I shouldn't whine - at least this CD's here, and it's a cracker.
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on March 12, 2003
Steve Reich is such a great creative genius. The title piece, Triple Quartet, is very new music for Steve Reich. One factor in this was that just before & during composition of this piece he heard Schnittke for this first time. It's different from other music by Reich, but it's also quintissentially Reich. To me it kind of feels like a caravan, camels & sands & silks & all. It's the Kronos Quartet playing over 2 tapes of themselves.
Electric Guitar Phase is a rescoring of Violin Phase, & it sounds very different from the original. The electric guitar, with some distortion, is certainly a change.
The Music for a Large Ensemble on this cd is a revised version of the original piece, & it does sound very different. Good work, Reich, I do prefer the new version on this cd.
Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint is crazy music. This & Electric Guitar Phase are the 2 pieces on this great cd that feel extremely futuristic in different ways. After numerous times people tried to perform it, this is the only one to satisfy Steve Reich.
I wouldn't recommend this cd as an introduction to Steve Reich's music, but for established fans it's very exciting new music from a protean composer.
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on June 10, 2004
From the sharp, discerning Triple Quartet, to Tokyo-Vermont Counterpoint, this CD is worth hearing to see an insight into Reich's later works, (starting with Triple Quartet), and it was brilliant to hear a revision of Music for a Large Ensemble, although I cannot really say that it tops the original in terms of colour and rhythm. Tokyo-Vermont Counterpoint shows the musical processes in a more precise way than the flutes, although the natural timbre of the flutes can be more pleasing. Electric Guitar Phase is worth hearing for a re-interpretation of Violin Phase, because the resulting patterns sound so interesting with such a different light shone on them. Overall a very successful CD.
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on June 4, 2002
Here you get a lot of Reich minimalist styles over the years.
Kronos play -as usual- well on this one in Bartok style and they taped themself and overdubbed it with a stunning result.
about the guitar piece... well I prefer Jeff Beck do stuff like this but it grows and... why nt? but for me it this albums weak point so I, because of this guitar track, was consider give this record a four star insted of five.
The best is the two last splendid minimalist pices for large orchestra and that midiplayed Japanese/Vermont piece.
Great sound and a good start for a newie to Riech music. Other here on Amazon complain about that most of it is "old" stuff... yes it is but it is improved, revised and comes with a better sound so if you are intrested in modern american minimalist music dont hesitate to grab this.
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on March 14, 2002
Here Steve Reich offers a refreshed experiencing of the old pieces Violin Phase & Music for a Large Ensemble. Violin Phase sounds markedly futuristic, compelling, rescored for electric guitar -- especially the swarming pulse section in the middle. Music for a Large Ensemble, while recognisable as the same piece it was before, has been rewritten & reworked for this version. Triple Quartet, featuring the Kronos quartet playing over tapes of themselves, is, wirthin the parameters of his mechanical composition, as new sound for Reich, written after he heard Schnittke for the first time & also with inspiration from Bartok. Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint for midi marimba is a very different experimental piece with a sense of humor. The tiny pulses that come in for the end make me grin widely.
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on October 29, 2001
While Philip Glass continues to crank out formulaic mush that sounds like everything else he's written, Steve Reich has continued to evolve and change as a composer. This new compilation from Nonesuch indicates just how far he's travelled in that regard. The earliest work here is an arrangement of Violin Phase for electric guitar. What's impressive is being reminded how severe and classical Reich's early works were, before exposure to gamelan music caused the style to "warm up." Music for Large Ensemble is Reich at his cuddliest, with a structure that gradually fills up with notes. The piece has a lot of charm and bounce, and might be thought of as a shorter, thicker version of Music for 18 Musicians. The charming style is also evident in Vermont Counterpoint, here arranged for electric marimba as Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint. But the real revelation in the most recent work in the program, the Triple Quartet. Reich claims to have been inspired by Bartok's 4th Quartet, and while Reich's work is less harmonicaly strident than Bartok's, it has some of the same driving rhythmic energy, and a dark harmonic pallette that is very different from the music he was writing in the 70s, and connects him more to Europeans like Louis Andriessen than with American minimalists. If you liked "City Life" or some of the other darker-hued music Reich has been composing in recent years, you'll enjoy the Triple Quartet. While Reich continues to have a distinctive personal style, this CD easily demonstrates that he hasn't gotten stuck in a groove like Mr. Glass has.
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