Saturday, 31 October 2009

Steve Reich at the RFH

... or to be totally accurate, Steve Reich by video link in the Clore Dancehall. This is a public space underneath the Royal Festival (Concert) Hall. The concert above was projected onto a big screen and piped in via a stereo surround loudspeaker arrangement.

It looked a lot like this.
(the accuracy of the musicians wasn't reflected in the spelling of the Powerpoint text). The sheer stamina, let alone technical ability of the musicians to reproduce Reich's music is not to be underestimated.

In the first half we heard Reich himself (& David Cossin) perform clapping music, which was the most disconcerting to watch, given that there was a signal delay that put the performance out of synch. Mark Stewart then performed Electric Counterpoint on guitar, playing live against his own prerecording of the other 12 parts. Finally NY collective Bang On A Can played the sextet - for me the most effective piece and performance of the evening.

But really, the meat of the matter was in the second half, with a performance of Music For 18 Musicians (mostly the London Sinfonietta), an absorbing and literally mesmerising score for everything from pitched and unpitched percussion to solo voices (the British group Synergy). It's here that the supernatural concentration of the musicians bears the fruit of the work and there was not faulting it.

Following this performance there was a Q&A session with the composer co-hosted by Paul Morley. I was sorry not to stay but, peculiarly, it felt as if the concert-goers proper from the hall were invading the space into which we freeloaders had accustomed ourselves, so I slipped away.

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