Hear Steve Reich's "WTC 9/11" Album in Its Entirety As NPR First Listen: "Kronos Plays with Fierce Beauty, Deep Intelligence"
Steve Reich's forthcoming Nonesuch album, WTC 9/11—featuring the title piece performed by Kronos Quartet, Mallet Quartet performed by Sō Percussion, and Dance Patterns from members of Steve Reich and Musicians—is now streaming in full on NPR Music as an NPR First Listen. The album, which also includes a DVD with a live performance of Mallet Quartet by Sō Percussion, is due out September 20 and is available for pre-order in the Nonesuch Store. The title piece will be available as a digital EP starting tomorrow. Album orders include a free download of the title piece starting tomorrow and the complete album starting September 20.
WTC 9/11 (2011), the third quartet Kronos Quartet has commissioned from the composer, following Different Trains (1988) and Triple Quartet (1998), is scored for three string quartets; Kronos recorded all three parts for the album. WTC 9/11 also uses pre-recorded voices, the speakers’ final vowels and consonants elongated in a stop-motion sound technique creating a "speech melody."
"Reich weaves the pitches and rhythms of those voices into a work of terrible sorrow and haunting power," says NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas. "Here again and as ever, Kronos plays with fierce beauty and deep intelligence."
Read more and listen to WTC 9/11, Mallet Quartet, and Dance Patterns in full at npr.org.
"The piece's raw emotional impact wells up not just from those incidents of 'speech melody,'" writes Tsioulcas in a separate piece for the NPR Classical blog Deceptive Cadence, "but also from what became the marrow of the piece: the documentary audio and the context of meditating upon 9/11."
Reich spoke with NPR about the piece—how it came to be, the techniques he used in writing it—for the first in a series of interviews with composers who have written works responding to September 11 for Deceptive Cadence. (John Adams, who wrote On the Transmigration of Souls for the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, will be featured later in the series.) Read more from Tsioulcas's introduction and listen to the interview at npr.org.
Reich also discussed the piece with the BBC for an interview you can read at bbc.co.uk.
The Boston Globe's Jeremy Eichler, in his review of the new album, wonders: "The musical memorials to 9/11 are still arriving but, in the end, how many will match the dark power of Steve Reich's WTC 9/11, finally here in a recording by the Kronos Quartet?" Eichler, too, notes the powerful impact of the use of pre-recorded voices. "As he did with Different Trains, Reich generates the musical material directly from the sampled voices, and it's the rigor and directness of the voice-music connection—and the apparent lack of artifice—that makes for the work's stark power."
Read the review at boston.com.
San Francisco Classical Voice reviewer Jeff Kaliss notes the power of the speech melodies as well. "There’s an irresistible drama to these interrelationships of strings and speech; the work seems to compel you to listen more carefully, perhaps repeatedly. Kronos’ instrumental precision and its emotive subtlety and power are invaluable here."
Kaliss sees the album's second piece, Mallet Quartet, performed by Sō Percussion, as "the joyous side of Reich, remembered from his early pieces for marimba and other percussion in the 1960s and ’70s, inspired in part by his studies of African drumming and Balinese gamelan.
Closing with the third piece, Dance Patterns, the album "neatly encompasses Reich’s different strains," Kaliss concludes, "and also serves to commemorate his upcoming 75th birthday, on Oct. 3."
Read the review at sfcv.org.
To pre-order the full WTC 9/11 album and receive a free download of the title piece starting September 6 and the complete album starting September 20, head to the Nonesuch Store now.