Reich, Rags, and Road Movie

SXSW showcase reviews

Steve Reich
Steve Reich (Photo by Aubrey Edwards)

Reich, Rags, and Road Movie

St. David's Church, Wednesday, March 12

Organizers from Gramophone/Boosey & Hawkes cheekily declared the Steve Reich-curated contemporary music showcase the "most subversive of acts at a subversive festival." Yet the underlying note was that the overlapping galaxies of electronic and world music that long ago established the New York original a star in the firmament fit nicely with the span of SXSW. Considering that the showcase was anchored by Michelle Schumann of the Austin Chamber Music Center and the Soli Chamber Ensemble from San Antonio, Texas, demonstrated that Third Coast avant-garde is capable of keeping up with whatever standards are being set elsewhere. Schumann made powerful work of a trio of short ragtime-inflected piano pieces penned by Uzbekistan-born composer Elena Kats-Chernin, which briefly lent the church setting the flavor of a Russian salon. Then Soli violinist Ertan Torgul stepped up to join Schumann on the cinematic John Adams' composition "Road Movies," a speedy duel that passed lightening quick as the players alternated leads like a pair of stock car racers. After a musical interlude that featured the rest of the Soli players, it was time for the night's first Reich number; he was on hand, but didn't play. Countering taped notes for a sublime lesson in grace under pressure, Soli clarinet player Stephanie Key tackled "New York Counterpoint" for her second stand-alone performance of the night (she also notched a winning version of "Gra" by Reich pal Elliot Carter). Coming next, the visibly nervous guitarist C.E. Whalen conquered his fear for another tale of the tape, brilliantly re-creating Reich's "Electric Counterpoint," originally composed for Pat Metheny. Capping the night were Reich specialists So Percussion, who brought forth the master's atomic polyrhythms in style.

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