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Reich's music moves along in a stately, orderly, almost mathematical way, so one wouldn't expect a wide variety of interpretive styles in different performances. Still, this recording of Tehillim, at least the third issued so far, seems sharper in focus and rhythm than the premiere ECM recording, the only one to include the composer's participation. The Desert Music sounds somewhat different here than in the premiere Nonesuch recording by Michael Tilson Thomas with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Chorus, the ensembles it was written for. This "revised chamber version" by the composer from 2001 uses smaller forces, losing something in grandeur while gaining rhythmic clarity. It's becoming obvious that Reich's music will survive his own performing career and lifetime, and here is an example of a disc with no performing ties to the composer which is still extremely satisfying. It is also very well-recorded and generously programmed, since the premiere recordings of the two works took up a disc each. Cantaloupe Music provides sung texts and lists of the performers but not a word of program notes, a liability to this otherwise admirable release. --Leslie Gerber
Top Customer Reviews
In fact, Alan's interpretations weren't just birthed at Eastman -- they began years before in other places, and here is the shining result. Rhythm that bounces out of the box from the first note, voices and instruments perfectly in tune with incredible inflection (non vibrato and tinged with both classical and jazz sensibility), unprecedented brisk tempi (putting into new contrast Reich's exquisitely frozen slow movements), and a jaw-dropping sense of dance energy throughout. The level of swing going on here is contagious but clear and unforced, so that when that extra drive over the top is needed for climactic moments, it's there in shocking proportion yet still in control. Just phenomenal. They almost sound like new pieces now, or a new way of hearing Reich that perhaps was only possible a few generations later.
Reich's revisions are wonderful. I never once missed the extra brass and strings from the old Desert Music -- all the same gestures are there but are allowed to move and breathe like never before. I agree there's something very special about that old Tehillim on ECM, but this new one is so different in character and so winsome, you can't help but be glad it's here.Read more ›
Meanwhile, the singers' voices in The Desert Music are more individually characterized than before, allowing you to hear the text more clearly in voices that are dramatically free of any vibrato whatsoever, giving the singing a pure but momentous sound. I agree that the larger body of strings used in MTT's version is missed in the opening of the last movement, but otherwise I prefer the fiddlers in this version for their cracker jack playing. Quicker tempos accentuate the exuberance of Reich's syncopations. (This performance shaves 5 minutes off MTT's version.)
If I could only have one version of these pieces this would be the one I would buy. Actually, this recording is a better deal than what is currently available: The Desert Music on Nonesuch is unaccompanied by a second work, a situation which is also true of Tehillim on ECM.Read more ›
I still prefer the premier recording of Tehillim that was released on the ECM label. This version is improved with greater transparency, a faster tempo, crisp recording and a tighter performance overall. However there is just something missing here in that I find the ECM performance just to be more exciting overall. The vocalists on the ECM recording convey more passion in my opinion. Still this is a fine re-interpretation of Tehillim.
The new recording of the Desert Music is much improved over the original recording done by Michael Tilson Thomas. Not that MTT's recording is bad mind you - quite the opposite. I was in love with the Desert Music, believing that it was (is) Reich's best work, and that was the MTT original recording that I was in love with. However, this new interpretation just makes a great work even better. The tempo is much faster which enhances the impact of the work and just seems to fit the music better than the more leisurely pace set by MTT. Also the smaller forces involved bring more clarity to the score.
And yet I do miss some of the craggy grandeur of Tilson-Thomas's reading. Under his direction, the final (fast) section seems to be imbued with a curious, unearthly luminosity. There is also a ripeness of articulation (particularly in the brass at key moments) not found in the brighter, more analytical new recording.
So, if we can happily oscillate between Klemperer and Eliot-Gardiner in Beethoven (well, I can, but I drink a lot), why can't we do the same with Tilson-Thomas and Pierson in Reich?
Most recent customer reviews
Steve Reich is the greatest mainstream minimalist composer of our time.
This recording of Tehillim I think is the best one yet, & I suppose since this is the most recently... Read more
The recording of Tehillim on this CD is the best I've heard, an absolute tour de force for the instrumentalists and especially the singers. Read morePublished on Dec 30 2002
I concur with the other reviewers' enthusiasm here. I first heard "Tehillim" in college 20 years ago when it was required (! Read morePublished on Nov. 12 2002 by Bradley P. Lehman
Steve Reich has said of this recording:
"A truly outstanding ensemble. Their recording of Tehillim is an absolute knockout... Read more
You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but sometimes bringing a frisky new puppy home can coax a few spectacular post-geriatric Frisbee leaps out of an elder canine. Read morePublished on Sept. 23 2002 by Jerry Bowles
This is a beautiful recording, highly recommended for all Reich lovers and those who want to get an idea of his music. Read morePublished on Sept. 20 2002 by SK