Steve Reich benefited greatly from the comparison. His Proverb, a BBC commission still "in progress", calls for a vocal quintet backed by two electric organs and two vibraphones. The gnomic text is taken from Wittgenstein's Culture and Value, while the music recalls both Perotin and the distinctive pulse patterns that Reich used in The Desert Music and Sextet.
While Proverb is skilfully fashioned, if shaved virtually to the bone, City Life, the other Reich on the bill, employs a mass of highly contrasted instrumental sonorities. As in Different Trains, taped sounds and speech fragments are of central importance, although here they're played via sampler keyboards, but City Life presents a more consistent pulse than its relatively short-breathed predecessor: you can "lock into" its language more easily and the textures have greater variety. The five distinct movements incorporate foot-tapping rhythms and warm waves of harmony, a fierce canon between samplers (sounding rather like a manic gathering of sea-birds), a darker section recalling the death-haunted central movement of Different Trains and a riotous finale, replete with screaming alarms. Unlike the vacuous gesturing of Ballet Mecanique, however, there was meaning, colour and genuine dramatic impact. Peter Eotvos directed a vigorous performance, although I could imagine even tighter handling of the work's rhythmic base. Still, it all sounded splendid.
Alas, when it came to Les Noces, Stravinsky's voice-and-ivory ritual was quite defeated by the acoustics. The singing was excellent but the four pianists could barely project beyond the stage while the percussion were inordinately loud. It was also a mite too civilised, although being in such disruptive company may have created the illusion of good manners - no bad thing at a wedding.Reuse content