Review: New York Philharmonic premiere of Steve Reich’s first score for orchestra in decades

Posted on: December 9, 2019

“Steve Reich, one of the avatars of musical Minimalism, has written barely at all for the traditional symphony,” writes Seth Colter Walls in Friday’s (12/6) New York Times. “Before ‘Music for Ensemble and Orchestra,’ which had its New York premiere with the New York Philharmonic on Thursday … his last piece for orchestra had come more than 30 years ago…. By restricting the most virtuosic material in the 20-minute ‘Music for Ensemble and Orchestra’ to a select group of strings, woodwinds, pianos and vibraphones, he [hewed] closely to the intimate forces employed by his usual groups…. He still displays his old talent for blitzing, interlocking, mutating melodies, as well as for dramatic shifts in harmony. But his use of the orchestra reveals a composer confident in his idiom, reaching out for new effects…. Some scintillating passages for trumpets and vibraphones were brimming with a metallic resonance that the orchestra and its music director, Jaap van Zweden, balanced beautifully with the strings and winds…. This program of classics [Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 4 with Yefim Bronfman] plus an exciting contemporary work is exactly the kind of eclectic, highly enjoyable evening that an elite orchestra can and should pull off regularly.” The score was co-commissioned with several other orchestras.

Posted December 9, 2019

Photo of Steve Reich by Jay Blakesberg