London Sinfonietta/Jonny Greenwood review – mesmerising to watch

Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
An intent audience gave the impression that they could submit to the numinous ebb and flow of Reich's work forever

It seems a fairly safe bet that Radiohead should be into Steve Reich. That Reich is equally into Radiohead became apparent in 2012, when the London Sinfonietta gave the premiere of Radio Rewrite, a piece based on two of the band's songs. And for this all-Reich programme, the band's guitarist, Jonny Greenwood, performed a solo work, Electric Counterpoint, originally written in 1987 for jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. The piece requires the guitarist to prepare 12 overdubbed tracks and play along to the pre-recorded material. Reich first came across Greenwood performing his version of the work at a festival in Krakow.

On this occasion, however, the start was delayed as Greenwood's on-stage laptop refused to function. It created the slightly ironic spectacle of a member of Radiohead not OK with a computer, though, when it did get going, Greenwood's crystalline, cascading effects were worth waiting for.

The concert was bookended by two pieces in which Reich took his signature phasing technique to its most fundamental and most elaborate extremes. Clapping Music reduces the process to the sound of four hands applauding with astonishing mathematical dexterity. Completed in 1976, Music for 18 Musicians was Reich's most ambitious composition to date, and the hour-long piece proved almost as mesmerising to watch as to listen to. The array of marimba players hammered away with quasi-industrial concentration, as if employed on an assembly-line for complex musical circuitry.

Jonathan Morton's rendition of a 1967 phase-piece for violin, though deftly executed, was arguably a little too much of a good thing; though an intent audience gave the impression that they could submit to the numinous ebb and flow of Reich's work forever. Then again, it could just be a phase they were going through.


Alfred Hickling

The GuardianTramp

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