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Reich: Music for 18 Musicians - Colin Currie Group, Synergy Vocals

Reich: Music for 18 Musicians - Colin Currie Group, Synergy Vocals

Colin Currie Records  CCR0006

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


Reich: Music for 18 Musicians

Colin Currie Group, Synergy Vocals

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Review by Graham Williams - April 19, 2023

Even at the age of 86 Steve Reich continues to push the boundaries of his iconic minimalism style that has influenced so many composers of the past half century, so this new recording (only the second to appear in high resolution format on SACD) of his ‘Music for 18 Musicians’ is especially welcome. Reich composed the work over a period of two years (1974-76) and it was the first time he had written for larger ensembles. As Reich explains in his invaluable ‘Composer Notes’ included in the liner notes “the structure of the piece is based on a cycle of 11 chords played at the beginning of the piece and repeated at the end. All the instruments and voices play or sing pulsing notes within each chord.” In addition to a wide range of percussion instruments, the use of strings, woodwind and pianos provided a rich tonal palette for the composer, resulting in a composition that has shown to have considerable appeal to audiences from diverse musical and cultural backgrounds.

It would be hard to imagine a finer account of what is unquestionably a mesmerising and compelling piece than that given here by the internationally renowned percussionist Colin Currie, his virtuoso instrumental colleagues and Synergy Vocals who together comprise the Colin Currie Group that was formed in 2006 and specialise in performances of Steve Reich’s music. The many shifting layers of harmonic and rhythmic complexity are beautifully and faultlessly conveyed to the listener with focussed energy in sound of the utmost clarity. Currie’s superb performance lasts 63’54” in comparison with the 61’20” timing of the fine 2007 version on Innova Reich: Music for 18 Musicians - GVSU New Music Ensemble and one need hardly add that here there is no trace of “momentary lapses of ensemble” that my colleague John Broggio referred to when reviewing that earlier recording.

Presentation of this SACD is excellent. The 14 page booklet lists the names of the performers, an essay by Colin Currie on his long acquaintance with Reich’s music, photos of the recording sessions that show the instrumental layout in the recording venue and Reich’s notes referred to above.

‘Music for 18 Musicians’ was recorded on 16th December 2022 in Abbey Road Studios, London by engineer Daniel Halford at 24bit /96kHz PCM resolution and subsequently mastered for 5.1 multi-channel SACD by Jonathan Stokes for Classic Sound Ltd.

Performances of Reich’s music by The Colin Currie Group have been praised by the composer as “the best I have ever heard” and Reich is on record as describing Currie as
‘One of the greatest musicians in the world today.

For both aficionados of Reich’s music and those new to the composer this disc is a ‘must buy’.

Copyright © 2023 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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Comments (3)
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Comment by Gurkensalat - May 2, 2023 (1 of 3)

Thank you for the review. How is the instrument layout you mentioned? Are they distributed around the listener or in a stereo panorama with only reverb in the surrounds?

Comment by Gurkensalat - June 27, 2023 (2 of 3)

Meanwhile, I have ordered this disk and can answer my own question. The recording does not place individual instruments in the surrounds. nevertheless, an excellent recording with lots of ambience.

Comment by Downunderman - August 6, 2023 (3 of 3)

Yes, a quite lovely version.

What most struck me when comparing this version to Reich: Music for 18 Musicians - GVSU New Music Ensemble was that the GVSU New Music Ensemble SACD version seems truer to the post-modernist aesthetic that the piece originates from.

The Colin Currie version on the other hand sounds more classical (for want of a better word!). It also has a warmer presentation, probably in large part courtesy of the Abbey Road studio.

Judged on their own merits though they are both excellent versions and if you lean 'classical' in your listening preferences then this one will be the one to go for.