One of Steve Reich’s most famous and enduring works, Music for 18 Musicians first caught the attention of percussionist Colin Currie in the 1980s. Over the years that followed, Currie dutifully built his library of Reich scores and recordings, but it was this work in particular that truly captured his imagination, holding him in its epic grasp ever since.
Of Reich’s comprehensive catalogue, it is this warm and resonant composition that signifies a major breakthrough in the sphere of minimalist music. “The perfect musical beehive” is how Currie describes performing the piece—and it’s easy to see why, with each musician purposefully teasing the material along, playing their own brilliantly contained part, yet contributing to something greater that hums with life.
Following the success of his previous Steve Reich albums, Steve Reich: Drumming (2018) and Colin Currie & Steve Reich Live at Fondation Louis Vuitton (2019), Currie is joined on this album by his closest musical colleagues and companions, the Colin Currie Group and Synergy Vocals, who recorded the work at London’s Abbey Road Studios in November 2022.
The debut release on Colin Currie Records, Steve Reich’s Drumming has been at the core of the Colin Currie Group’s programming for nearly two decades. Formed in 2006 for a performance at the BBC Proms celebrating the 70th birthday of Steve Reich, the group specialises in the American composer’s work. This recording was made possible by a crowd-funding campaign, which Reich enthusiastically endorsed, saying “It will be, I am sure, the best recording of Drumming ever made!”
Dating from 1971, Drumming is an epic work for nine percussionists, two vocalists and a piccolo player, and employs Reich’s trademark phasing technique. Over four connected parts, the composer explores different instrument groups, first focusing on bongo drums, then marimbas and glockenspiels before the complete ensemble come together for the piece’s climax.
The third album on Colin Currie Records celebrates Currie’s artistic relationship with American cultural icon Steve Reich. Programmed and performed at the composer’s request and under his supervision, this album is essential for any Reich fan, capturing a group of truly world-class performers.
For this recording, Colin conducts and performs with the Colin Currie Group and their long-standing collaborators Synergy Vocals. Steve Reich himself joined Colin on stage to perform Clapping Music.
Quartet – for two vibraphones and two pianos – is classic Reich. Written for the Colin Currie Group, and premiered in 2013, its dancing rhythms and subtly changing harmonies are performed with irrepressible, driving spirit, impeccable ensemble, and an intuitive sense of instrumental balance and blend.
“Colin Currie Group’s pianos and marimbas form an impressively organic body, swinging jazzy riffs with masterly skill. While the outer movements dance, with irregular syncopation and open, ever-shifting harmonies, the middle movement finds a glassy stillness, the marimbas beguiling and translucent. What lingers are those moments of intoxicating hush.”
BBC Music Magazine, *****