Sunday 24 May
Quartet and Sextet
We hope that you enjoy this broadcast from our archives, recorded at LSO St Luke's across concerts in October 2015, March 2018 and February 2019.
Steve Reich Quartet
Joe Locke Her Sanctuary
Makoto Ozone arr Simon Carrington Kato’s Revenge
Steve Reich Sextet
LSO Percussion Ensemble
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A more challenging and fragmented piece than the majority of his work, Steve Reich’s 2013 Quartet changes key repeatedly, and can break or pause without warning. ‘Although the parts are not unduly difficult,’ he writes, ‘it calls for a high level of ensemble virtuosity.’
Dedicated to percussionist Colin Currie, the piece defies the general assumption that ‘Quartet’ refers to a string quartet. ‘In my case, the quartet that has played a central role in many of my pieces (besides the string quartet) is that of two pianos and two percussion. In Quartet, there is just this group alone: two vibes and two pianos.’
Note by Joe Hardy, recorded in 2019
LSO Percussion Ensemble on stage in 2019
Neil Percy, Sam Walton, Gwilym Simcock, Joseph Havlat
Steve Reich was recently called ‘our greatest living composer’ (The New York Times), and ‘the most original musical thinker of our time’ (The New Yorker). From his early taped speech pieces in the 1960s, his path has embraced not only aspects of Western classical music, but the structures, harmonies and rhythms of non-Western and American vernacular music, particularly jazz.
Born in New York and raised between there and California, Reich studied philosophy before moving on to studying composition. During the summer of 1970, he studied drumming at the Institute for African Studies at the University of Ghana and went on to study Balinese Gamelan and the traditional forms of cantillation (chanting) of the Hebrew scriptures in New York and Jerusalem. In 1966 Reich founded his own ensemble of three musicians, which rapidly grew to 18 members and more. Since 1971, Steve Reich and Musicians have frequently toured the world. His 1988 piece Different Trains marked a new compositional method in which speech recordings generate the musical material for musical instruments.
Steve Reich’s music has been performed by major orchestras and ensembles around the world, including the LSO, New York Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony. In October 2006 in Tokyo, Steve Reich was awarded the Praemium Imperiale award in Music. This important international award covers areas in the arts not covered by the Nobel Prize. In May 2007 he was awarded The Polar Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of music. In April 2009 he was awarded the Pulitzer prize in Music for his composition Double Sextet.
A beautiful composition from the great American vibraphone maestro Joe Locke, the composer created this arrangement specially for the LSO Percussion Ensemble. The haunting melody floats over a 13/8 figure, and is a tour de force of keyboard virtuosity.
Note by Neil Percy, recorded in 2018
LSO Percussion Ensemble on stage in 2018
Neil Percy, David Jackson, Sam Walton, Simon Carrington, Philip Moore and Joseph Havlat
Known for many years as a master of the vibraphone, Joe Locke has emerged over the last decade as a leading composer, and bandleader. Among his most significant recordings are Four Walls of Freedom, a six-movement suite based on the writing of the monk Thomas Merton, and Live in Seattle by The Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group. His 2011 album, the captivating, immersive VIA, is the result of a reunion of Storms/Nocturnes, the transatlantic trio with Geoffrey Keezer and Tim Garland.
2012 saw the release of Locke’s first ever symphonic project, Wish Upon A Star, featuring Locke‘s Quartet with the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra, and the Jazz radio charts number one album Lay Down My Heart in 2013. In 2015 Locke released Love Is A Pendulum, a suite based on a poem by Barbara Sfraga.
Locke is a five-time recipient of the Jazz Journalists Association’s ‘Mallet Instrumentalist of the Year’ Award, has received two Earshot Golden Ear Awards for ‘Concert of the Year’, the 2013 Hot House NYC Jazz Awards for Best Vibes Player, and continues to top critics' and readers’ polls. In 2016 he was honoured with the induction into the Music Hall of Fame of his hometown Rochester, NY. He is an active clinician and educator in the United States and Europe, and has been the International Vibraphone Consultant at the Royal Academy Of Music, London, on a visiting basis since 2008, holding the title of Honorary Associate of the Royal Academy Of Music since 2013.
Image: Joe Locke © Richard Conde
Makoto Ozone arr Simon Carrington
We are delighted to include this amazing composition by Makoto Ozone. It was originally heard on the album Face to Face, the first duo recording featuring Ozone and Gary Burton. The piece was arranged by the talented Simon Carrington.
Note by Neil Percy, recorded in 2018
Majoring in jazz composition and arrangement, Makoto Ozone graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1983. The same year, he gave a solo recital at Carnegie Hall and released his first album OZONE. His album with Gary Burton, Virtuosi, was nominated for a Grammy in 2003. In recent years, Ozone has also focused on the classical repertoire, playing concertos with major orchestras both in Japan and abroad. In 2014, he was appointed by the New York Philharmonic to take part in their Asian tour. In 2017, he toured the US and Japan with Gary Burton, released the album Dimensions with Clarence Penn and James Genus, and was once again invited by the New York Philharmonic to perform at the David Geffen Hall. He was awarded the Shiju-HouShyou (The Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon) in 2018.
Image: Makoto Ozone © Kazashito Nakamura
As the title suggests, Sextet is scored for an ensemble of six players: four percussionists who play (at various times) marimba, vibraphone, bass drum, crotales and tam-tam, and two keyboard players who double piano and synthesisers. The work is set in five continuous movements which create an overall arch form (A-B-C-B-A) with movements becoming gradually slower in tempo toward the centre of the structure. The movements, although set in different tempos, run seamlessly into one another through a process known as metric modulation whereby a new tempo is established in relation to a previous pulse. Harmonically the work is based on sequences of dark, densely chromatic chords which inhabit a sound world incredibly reminiscent to that of Reich’s 1984 work for large orchestra and chorus, The Desert Music.
Despite its new-found harmonic richness, Sextet makes reference to many features and techniques idiosyncratic to Reich’s early style. The opening gesture of the work for example – a series of block chords on the piano that suddenly split between the two hands – is reminiscent of the sound of a tape loop that is beginning to phase. The melody that dominates the second movement is based on the African bell-rhythm that formed the basis of his Clapping Music (1972) and Music for Pieces of Wood (1973), again exploiting the pattern’s potential for rhythmic ambiguity. The idea of the accumulation of patterns is very important to the Sextet, building complex interwoven textures from relatively small amounts of musical material.
Steve Reich, Clapping Music (1972)
In addition to the familiar, in Sextet the listener is also treated to a selection of novel effects employed to overcome the inherent limitations of Reich’s ensemble. For example the use of bowed vibraphone and synthesisers in the first movement compensates for the lack of any sustaining instruments and the unusual inclusion of an un-pitched bass drum balances the ensemble’s bias towards high and mid-range instruments. Far from being just passing effects though, these new techniques are fully absorbed into the work’s musical fabric, and become essential building blocks of the many gradual processes that unfold as the piece progresses.
Note by Benjamin Picard, recorded in 2015
LSO Percussion Ensemble on stage in 2015
Neil Percy, David Jackson, Sam Walton, Tony Bedewi, Simon Crawford-Phillips, Philip Moore
LSO Percussion Ensemble
The LSO Percussion Ensemble comprises members of the London Symphony Orchestra’s percussion section as well as distinguished orchestral players with enviable reputations. If you are a classical music lover, you will have heard them on countless LSO recordings, as well as in the concert hall. The Ensemble enjoys an international following and embarked on a tour of Japan in 2018.
Their highly successful recording of music by Steve Reich for LSO Live has become the best-selling physical product on the label in the United States. Critics have been quick to praise this album with rave reviews. ‘The LSO percussion’s performance of Sextet builds up in energy and momentum to a quite thrilling climax.’ (Gramophone) ‘A wonderfully transparent weave through which the bowed vibe notes shine like rays of light through water.’ (BBC Music Magazine) ‘The performances and the recorded sound are so outstanding … unreservedly recommended.’ (HR Audio)
If you are a film buff, you will have heard these same players on the soundtracks of Star Wars, Harry Potter, Braveheart, Notting Hill, The Shape of Water, and hundreds more movies to which the LSO has provided the music.
The LSO Percussion Ensemble’s live performance of Music for Pieces of Wood has also been licensed for use in season eight of AMC’s Walking Dead. All this takes place within the context of performing 70 Barbican concerts a year as members of the London Symphony Orchestra, and almost the same number of concerts touring with the LSO around the world each year, with eminent conductors such as Bernard Haitink, Sir Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra’s Music Director Sir Simon Rattle.
London Symphony Orchestra © Ranald Mackechnie
London Symphony Orchestra © Ranald Mackechnie
The London Symphony Orchestra was established in 1904 and has a unique ethos. As a musical collective, it is built on artistic ownership and partnership. With an inimitable signature sound, the LSO’s mission is to bring the greatest music to the greatest number of people.
The LSO has been the only Resident Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in the City of London since it opened in 1982, giving 70 symphonic concerts there every year. The Orchestra works with a family of artists that includes some of the world’s greatest conductors – Sir Simon Rattle as Music Director, Principal Guest Conductors Gianandrea Noseda and François-Xavier Roth, and Michael Tilson Thomas as Conductor Laureate.
Through LSO Discovery, it is a pioneer of music education, offering musical experiences to 60,000 people every year at its music education centre LSO St Luke’s on Old Street, across East London and further afield.
The LSO strives to embrace new digital technologies in order to broaden its reach, and with the formation of its own record label LSO Live in 1999 it pioneered a revolution in recording live orchestral music. With a discography spanning many genres and including some of the most iconic recordings ever made the LSO is now the most recorded and listened to orchestra in the world, regularly reaching over 3,500,000 people worldwide each month on Spotify and beyond. The Orchestra continues to innovate through partnerships with market-leading tech companies, as well as initiatives such as LSO Play. The LSO is a highly successful creative enterprise, with 80% of all funding self-generated.
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Join us for our next full-length concert:
Thursday 28 May 2020, 7.30pm BST
Brahms German Requiem
Szymanowski Stabat Mater
Brahms German Requiem
Valery Gergiev conductor
Sally Matthews soprano
Ekaterina Gubanova mezzo-soprano
Kostas Smoriginas baritone
Christopher Maltman baritone
London Symphony Chorus
Simon Halsey chorus director
London Symphony Orchestra