Two works from the last decade by American composer Steve Reich have been recorded for the first time by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Susanna Mälkki. Runner/Music for Ensemble and Orchestra is out now via Nonesuch Records. A vinyl release is scheduled for Dec. 2.
Runner is composed “for a large ensemble of winds, percussion, pianos and strings,” says Reich. While the tempo remains more or less constant, there are five movements, played without pause, that are based on different note durations. First, even sixteenths, then irregularly accented eighths, then a very slowed-down version of the standard bell pattern from Ghana in quarters, fourth a return to the irregularly accented eighths and finally a return to the sixteenths but now played as pulses by the winds for as long as a breath will comfortably sustain them. The title was suggested by the rapid opening and my awareness that, like a runner, I would have to pace the piece to reach a successful conclusion.”
Reich says Music for Ensemble and Orchestra is based on Runner. It is “an extension of the baroque concerto grosso where there is more than one soloist. Here there are twenty soloists – all regular members of the orchestra, including the first stand strings and winds, as well as two vibraphones and two pianos. The piece is in five movements, though the tempo never changes, only the note value of the constant pulse in the pianos. Thus, an arch form: sixteenths, eighths, quarters, eighths, sixteenths.”