The Kronos Quartet's advocacy of contemporary music is one of the wonders of our time. Here the four players appear in triplicate, performing Steve Reich's Triple Quartet by pre-recording two quartets and playing the third simultaneously with the tape. As they have demonstrated time and time again in their vast repertoire, they possess the razor-sharp precision Reich's music begs for. The clear, closely miked recording means that the interplay of part work is consistently fascinating. The Kronos brings out an almost Copland-like quality in the second movement, which speaks of quiet, open spaces. The four pieces on this disc offer a perfectly balanced, musically satisfying set of contrasts. Electric Guitar Phase is a 2001 version of the 1967 Violin Phase with Dominic Frasca overdubbing the four electric guitar parts. Exuding a purer minimalism than Triple Quartet, Electric Guitar Phase is heady and hypnotic. Music for Large Ensemble is a glittering, xylophone/marimba-decorated panorama of sound, but it is a fitting tribute to the talents of marimba player Mika Yoshida that Tokyo/Vermont Counterpoint acts as a satisfying climax to the disc. Originally for flutes, alto flutes and piccolos and entitled merely Vermont Counterpoint, Yoshida's own arrangement is a truly virtuoso feat, gripping from first to last. --Colin Clarke
Over a decade after their last collaboration - which produced the 150,000-selling Grammy winner "Different Trains" - Steve Reich and Kronos deliver a world premiere recording which features an overdubbed, three-layered performance by the quartet in a work whose expressive energy marks a high point in the composer's compositional style. With a spirit that mirrors its primary source of inspiration - the last movement of Bartok's Fourth Quartet - the TRIPLE QUARTET has met with critical praise in Kronos' concert performances since its composition in 1999. ELECTRIC GUITAR PHASE is a new version of Violin Phase for four overdubbed electric guitars made by the guitarist Dominic Frasco, and takes the original music to a new zone of swirling hypnosis. MUSIC FOR LARGE ENSEMBLE is performed here by young conductor Alan Pierson directing the ensembles Ossia (from the Eastman School) and Alarm Will Sound in a revised edition of the piece with added violins. TOYKO/VERMONT COUNTERPOINT for midi-marimbas (KAT controllers) is a new version of Vermont Counterpoint, originally for winds. Mika Yoshida, a Japanese percussionist, made the arrangement and performs all the parts: A radically different take on the source, and one with a dazzling quasi-electronica feel, as well as a sense of humor. In all, this new Reich assortment - a major new work partnered with fresh versions of other pieces - is a vivid portrait of the artist's work now, as well as a keen reminder of how current his earlier music continues to feel, decades after its composition.