Alan Pierson, Steve Reich: Tehillim / The Desert Music

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 01.18.11 in Reviews

Tehillim and The Desert Music are two scores from the '80s that show Reich entering the musical mainstream without losing his distinctive voice or his radical approach to harmony and orchestration. The Desert Music (with poems by William Carlos Williams) is a bit of an oddity — a work for full orchestra and chorus from a composer who generally prefers smaller ensembles with more "bite." Tehillim, although it exists in a full orchestra version, is meant to be played with only a few strings, meaning that Reich's beloved mallet percussion instruments get to drive. Using Psalm texts in Hebrew, it is one of Reich's most accessible and exciting scores.