Steve Reich, "The ECM Recordings: Music for 18 Musicians, Violin Phase, Music for Large Ensemble, Octet, Tehillim" performed by various musicians and ensembles under Reich's direction (ECM, three discs).
This box set is the best available box set of Steve Reich's music - most notably what may well be his greatest masterpieces, "Music for 18 Musicians" and "Tehillim."
Reich celebrated his 80th birthday on Monday. It was a major musical event in America, for being, among other things, a reminder of just how long-established Reich, Philip Glass and Terry Riley's minimalist "new music" has become in America.
Writes Paul Griffiths, "It was with ECM that Reich himself found a home as a recording artist, in 1978. ... We may have trouble now remembering, or imagining, the difficulty Reich's music presented to record companies at that time, even though the composer was into his 40s and had been touring internationally to great acclaim for several years. The music was certainly not difficult to understand or to feel, as the standing ovations proved: it was different, rather, to categorize. ... In a recording culture shaped by big boxes, where could it fit?"
On ECM, perfectly, was the answer. "Music for 18 Musicians" sold a hundred thousand copies when released. "Tehillim" is the Hebrew word for psalms.
Wrote Reich: "Literally translated it means 'praises'" which is why it is the most sublimely celebratory of Reich's work. Close to an essential box set of Reich now available.
4 stars (out of four)