This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Reich’s 1985 Nonesuch debut, incorporating poem fragments from William Carlos Williams, was also his first work for large orchestra and chorus; Michael Tilson Thomas conducts. The New York Times praised its “ingenious craft, transfixing rhythmic energy, and gorgeous sound.”
R E V I E W S:
This hour-long work, commissioned by West German Radio and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, marks a transitional period for Reich. Based in the rhythmic pulse of Music for 18 Musicians, he adds a text by William Carlos Williams (sung by a full chorus), uses the more traditional sounds of a full orchestra (strings and brass are suddenly prominent), and snatches of melody dot the musical canvas here and there. The use of vocals
here looks forward to such projects as Different Trains and The Cave. If Reich is trying to encapsulate the grandeur of the American west without falling back on typical "Western" tropes, he does so successfully.
-- Ted Mills, AllMusic.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Desert Music by Steve Reich
Michael Tilson Thomas
Brooklyn Philharmonic Chorus,
Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra,
Steve Reich and Musicians
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1984; USA
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Premiere Desert Music April 7, 2016
By Christopher Abbot (Vineyard Haven, MA) See All My Reviews
"Steve Reich has written just four pieces of music for symphony orchestra: The Four Sections, Three Movements, Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards, and this piece. Of the four, Michael Tilson Thomas was involved with the creation of all but the Variations, and recorded their premieres. His authority, therefore, is unquestioned. Though The Desert Music wasn't Reich's first journey into the orchestral world--that belongs to the Variations--it remains his most elaborate and, to me, most successful orchestral score by far. The poetic fragments from the works of William Carlos Williams serve a duel purpose: while in one sense they are mostly about music, the heart of the text and of the piece can be found in part IIIC: Say to them: Man has survived hitherto because he was too ignorant to know how to realize his wishes. Now that he can realize them, he must either change them or perish. The piece thus becomes a plea for a rational and humane response to our inclination to destroy ourselves. There have been several subsequent recordings of The Desert Music. The most recent, and best sounding, is by Kristjan Jarvi on a Chandos SACD, which also includes Three Movements. But this recording, which is happily still available thanks to ArkivMusic, is still the best overall performance and a superb introduction to one of Reich's most important works. Though Reich has since abandoned the orchestra for smaller ensemble works, perhaps only Different Trains can come close to the kind of insight into the human condition that The Desert Music embodies."