May-June: Kristjan Jarvi's new album of Reich's The Desert Music & Three Movements, by Chandos

Kristjan Järvi’s last album recorded as Music Director of the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich will be released by Chandos on June 28 in the US and May 31 in the UK. A recording of Steve Reich’s The Desert Music and Three Movements, the Super Audio disc also features Austria’s Chorus sine nomine. The Desert Music was recorded at ORF Radio Kulturhaus in Vienna in October 2006 and Three Movements was recorded at the Musikverein in Vienna in November 2007.

The Desert Music is perhaps iconic American composer Steve Reich’s most ambitious orchestral score to date – a setting of texts by the American poet William Carlos Williams (1886 – 1963) for chorus and large orchestra. It is a highly symphonic piece which is inspired by Reich’s own travels in California’s Mojave Desert, the White Sands – and perhaps in particular the Alamagordo in New Mexico, which carries sinister associations with secret weapons of mass destruction and suggests a geographical link with the poet’s somber warning to mankind in the work’s central movement.

Another opportunity to write for large orchestra came when the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra commissioned Reich to write his Three Movements. This work was premiered in St. Louis under Leonard Slatkin in April 1986. As in The Desert Music, the sizeable string section is divided, here into two subsections which are placed to the left and right of the conductor to create the alternating antiphonal effect that is so characteristic of Reich’s style. Hearing the performances on this recording, Steve Reich described them as “incisive, focused, and intense,” and said, “this recording of Three Movements is the best I have ever heard. The Desert Music is full, rich, yet full of detail. Kristjan Järvi, the Tonkünstler-Orchester, and Chorus sine nomine perform with a relaxed rhythmic precision that perfectly fits the music. Bravo and thanks to all.”

The American composer Steve Reich pioneered the style of minimalism in music. He has been hugely influential on contemporary composers such as John Adams, but also on the progressive rock movement of the 80s with bands such as King Crimson and rock musicians such as Brian Eno. The Guardian has described him as one of “a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history.”

This is the third SACD recording on Chandos by the Vienna-based Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich under Kristjan Järvi, its Chief Conductor and Music Director from 2004 to 2009. They are joined by Chorus sine nomine, one of Austria’s leading vocal ensembles.

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