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Variations / Shaker Loops

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Audio CD, October 25, 1990
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Polygram Records
  • ASIN: B00000E2S3
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #604,802 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Holmes on July 20, 2006
Steve Reich is in my opinion the most important American composer alive (he will turn 70 in October), and in my view, he the most inspired and original composer of our age. Some prominent journalists actually share this view with me. This has been increasingly true since 1970's when he composed his first expansive and colorful works for chamber and larger ensembles. At that time, he had said all he had wanted to say in the "tape loop" genre, in which he experimented with temporal and spatial aural effects through manipulation of speeds and sampling certain sound bits inherent in recorded sound.

This CD is a reissue of one that was released in 1984. Decca has reissued it on its "Originals: Philips Legendary Recordings" series. Now that Philips is long out of business due to corporate conglomerates, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find older recordings that were geared toward a more specialized market. [As an aside: I always resent the fact that retailers label certain small market films and recordings as "Special Interest." This carries an obvious aura of mindless speeches by certain American politicians.]

In the so-called "minimalist" genre (terms that the composers themselves never like to use), there exist five great masterworks that may very well live long in the music history books as among the most important and influential works of the latter 20th Century. They are:

1) John Adams - Harmonium

2) Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians

3) Adams - Shaker Loops

4) Philip Glass - Einstein on the Beach (this one may be questionable for some)

5) Reich - Variations for Winds, Strings, and Keyboards

This recording has been a treasure for me ever since it was released.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 4, 2006
Though this electrifying CD was recorded and released in 1983 and was the premiere recording of these two wondrous compositions that are now staples of the repertoire, the CD has gone unrecognized. Perhaps with the new packaging now online and in the stores there will be a greater notice and hence appreciation of these performances by Edo de Waart and the San Francisco Symphony.

The Reich 'Variations for Winds, Strings, and Keyboards' from 1980 remains for this listener one of the more beautiful compositions Reich has created. It is lush harmonically and is the quintessential minimalist 'sound' - that of a pulsating, subtly changing ground of strings that supports the over statements by the keyboards and winds. It is nearly erotic in mood and De Waart knows exactly how to make it work.

John Adams 'Shaker Loops' was originally conceived as a string septet in 1977 and then adapted for string orchestra in 1982-83. The title refers to the spiritual reaction of the Shakers, a religious sect who fall into rapture and ecstatic shaking when the spirit enters their body. Adams does not mock this concept but rather honors it. The endlessly fascinating pulsations of the strings give way now and then to moments of contemplation. Again, as with the Reich piece, few listeners will be able to withhold emotional response to this very beautiful composition. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, April 06
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This is my first brush with minimalism, and I'm not sure that I want to play this a lot, but I would be interested to hear these pieces in the concert hall. They are quite similar pieces, in that in both quite fast toe-tapping iterative figures are established as a kind of background -- maybe like a ground bass, except that it isn't bass -- against which lower and louder long notes are sounded by what sounds like an organ (electronic?) maybe augmented by low winds. Neither the toe-tapping iterative patterns nor the loud lower stuff is unvaried. Without the rhythmic forward thrust being broken, there are slight changes in texture and phrasing and dynamics to the rhythmic ground. There is less textural change to the loud low stuff -- maybe none, in fact -- but the appearances of such material are less predictable (is it a pattern at all?) and there is dynamic variation and variation in the duration of the appearances of that material. So . . . an element of surprise is built in. There's no melody to distract, so you start paying the rhythmic material the kind of attention that you you would "normally" give to melody, and you're rewarded by beginning to notice the considerable variety in what at first blush seems unvarying. It's like driving across the "boring" high plains of Kansas, and then (because there's nothing else to see) beginning to notice the subtle variety of textures and colors -- and then it's not boring any more.

Good sound and plenty of presence from De Waart and the San Francisco players in these first-ever 1983 recordings. Give it a try!
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