The Colin Currie Group was formed in 2006 for a Prom that included Steve Reich’s Drumming. If you attended the concert you might well remember what an effect this expansive yet focused piece had in the Royal Albert Hall, a space possessed of precisely the same qualities.
Drumming, completed in 1971, is Reich’s longest piece. It represents the culmination of his experiments with phasing and a broadening of his timbral horizons. It is rhythmically and harmonically static, yet epic in both its proportions and its journey. Though it is often cited as the first minimalist masterpiece, it probably signalled the start of the genre’s fattening-up into something more maximal and less severe.
Since 2006 the Group has performed Drumming elsewhere with Synergy Vocals and given the first performance of the piece Reich attended as an ordinary punter. These guys have a pedigree with this unfathomably difficult score and their fresh, slick recording shows it. Handling of the overlapping of Reich’s 12 beat pattern – polyrhythmic as each of the nine percussionists, two vocalists, piccolo player and whistler shimmy on to their own individual down-beat – is rock solid. On top, the playing is more than secure: confident, bright and delivered on the front foot, in apparent contrast to the ritualistic sobriety with which Reich and his musicians would play the piece in its infancy. The performance is tighter than that from Ictus, the current Gramophone recommendation. It is also more rooted, as neat and magnificent as a Rothko in its sewing-up of the bigger picture. A Drumming for this decade – and probably a few to come, too.