The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: Reich’s 9/11 commemoration seems less than the sum of its parts
Musicians: Kronos Quartet, S? Percussion, James Preiss, Thad Wheeler (vibraphone) Frank Cassara, Garry Kvistad (xylophone) Edmund Niemann, Nurit Tilles (piano)
This disc includes two of Reich’s percussion pieces, but it is dominated by a new Kronos commission – a tenth-anniversary commemoration of 9/11 that is heavy with layers of significance. Alongside the taped voices of firefighters and friends – whose intonation is mirrored in the musical ideas – Reich uses the acronym WTC to consider the ‘world to come’ and to attempt to invoke the spirit of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier as well as indicating the World Trade Center.
The piece starts with a siren effect that displays the Kronos players at their strident and robust best. But the novelty of the melodic replications of the speech soon wears off – rigidly tonal, they come across as trite and erode the subtler expression of the spoken words. The players are strangely subdued at times – witness the politely accented chords as the towers come down. Perhaps this is in deference to the speech clips, but it contributes to the feeling of an underwhelming collaboration.