Reich Different Trains; (The) Four Sections; Triple Quartet

Reich richly expanded means a very different Trains indeed

Author: 
Ivan Moody

REICH Different Trains; The Four Sections; Triple Quartet

  • Different Trains
  • Triple Quartet
  • (The) Four Sections

There’s something special about this version of Different Trains. It’s the one commissioned by Wolfgang Sawallisch and David Robertson and their respective orchestras (Philadelphia and Lyon) in 2001 for string orchestra, and it impresses immediately by the richness of its vastly expanded sound palette. Though it may be heresy to say so, I never found the original string quartet version entirely convincing. This recording shows why: inside that frenetic chamber work was a much larger piece trying to get out, and here it is, fully realised, as it were, in glorious technicolor.

Some of the writing has an almost Beethovenian quality about it and Robertson and the Lyon players are clearly electrified by the increased emotional depth and sonic glow – it’s a hugely impressive performance of a work that has, quite literally, grown in stature.

And, of course, if you are going to record Reich with 48 strings, you may as well include the largest version of Triple Quartet from 1999, scored for 36 of them. The juxtaposition is felicitous, bringing out the similarities between these two works, one apparently abstract and one very direct in its emotional impact. What strikes one is the consistency of Reich’s writing for strings, and how he has developed a genuinely original melodic-rhythmic vocabulary that, without betraying its ‘minimalist’ origins, has acquired a truly impressive intellectual and emotional depth.

If in going back to The Four Sections for orchestra from 1986 one has the feeling that much is inchoate, it is also true that all the elemental power of the more recent works is there, too, and the Lyon musicians react to it with fantastic energy and precision. A major addition to the Reich discography.

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