Reich: Clapping Music; Music for Pieces of Wood; Sextet

Reviewed on Wed 15 Jun, 2016

The beauty of the LSO Percussion Ensemble’s performance is in its delicate, almost tactile sound, the various textures – some sensual, others more metallic – kept crystal clear, the music’s constant rhythmic course occasionally shifting, crab-like, off centre.

A quite exceptional SACD. Sextet, which draws musical sustenance from the darkly chromatic Desert Music that preceded it, dates from 1984-86, the scoring, an ensemble of four percussionists and two keyboardists who perform on piano, three marimbas, two vibraphones, two bass drums, crotales, sticks, and tam-tam. The beauty of the LSO Percussion Ensemble’s performance is in its delicate, almost tactile sound, the various textures – some sensual, others more metallic – kept crystal clear, the music’s constant rhythmic course occasionally shifting, crab-like, off centre. As the piece builds, so does the tension, though never to excess. As minimalist pieces go, Sextet scores high for musical nourishment, something I never actually felt before hearing this superb recording. The more rigorously minimalist Music for Pieces of Wood (wood blocks and claves) is so ingeniously arranged that you easily imagine melodic lines popping up even when they’re not present – and surely the brief burst of Clapping Music that opens the programme should have ended it, like an upbeat round of well-earned applause.
–Rob Cowan