Steve Reich finale

Last night was the final night of the Steve Reich 70th Birthday concert series at The Barbican. As you know, I saw The Cave on Thursday, and the wonderful Todd Reynolds was working hard to try and find me a ticket for the sold out show on Sunday. Eventually I get an email telling me there’s one there for me, but it’ll be £30. Fair enough says I, £30 is a bargain to see such a fab gig.

So i arrange to meet Todd, head down to the Barbican and buy my ticket for £30. Takes a while to find Todd, at which point he tells me he’s managed to get me a free ticket! yay! So we return the £30 one and get a refund, and Todd takes me in to see about 5 minutes of a rather lacklustre performance of ‘Electric Counterpoint’ – one of my favourite Steve Reich pieces, but SO not done justice by the dude playing it at the Barbican.

After that , I settle down to watch a bit of The Bang On A Can All Stars on the free stage, but the sound is pretty rough, so Todd and I head off on a futile search for food, find none, he heads off to eat backstage, I head off to collect my comp ticket. Run into Harriet, who played musical saw on the gig with Stephen Daltry earlier on in the year, and to Catherine, wife of MKS, whose grandfather had provided the poetry for the Gavin Bryars piece being premiered… ’tis a small world, to be sure.

Anyway, enough waffle – the gig. Three pieces, cello counterpoint, live cello to 6 or 7 pre-recorded cellos (with video in this case) – started shakily, suspect intonation etc, got much better as it went on. Daniel Variations – the Reich piece commissioned for the festival – for his usual chamber orchestra and four voices, which was excellent, a lovely piece of music. The words seemed rather superfluous (one of the Daniels referred to it the title was Daniel Pearl, the reporter kidnapped and killed in Iraq, and the ‘tribute’ to him was to use the words ‘my name is Daniel Pearl’ – sadly, that phrase as a standalone to an english audience will often end up in the last two words being substituted for ‘Michael Cain’.) – didn’t seem to offer any real tribute to Daniel, or comment on his death or anything. But I guess I don’t listen to Steve Reich for the lyrics.

Which, in the case of ‘music for 18 musicians’ is probably just as well – it’s Reich’s masterpiece, and his best known work, and it’s incredibly hypnotic, a total monster of a piece to perform (the marimba ostinatos are swapped between a number of musicians, as I don’t think one person could keep up that for an hour). Anyway, it was fantastic – I’m told by a couple of people who’ve seen it a number of times that it wasn’t a great version of that piece, but it sounded good to me!

the aftershow was a nice affair, nice to chat to Todd, Brad, David Sheppard (former StevieStudent who was doing an incredible job of the sound), and then to catch the last tube home… All in all a great night out, and lots cheaper than I’d planned too!

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