Quotes about Repertoire

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 by Steve Reich

co-commissioned by Amadinda, NEXUS, SoPercussion, Synergy Percussion, and Soundstreams

Mallet Quartet is about 15 minutes in duration. It was co-commissioned by the Amadinda Quartet in Budapest (on the occasion of its 25th Anniversary, NEXUS in Toronto, So Percussion in New York, Synergy Percussion in Australia, and Soundstreams in Canada. 

Here are some reviewers’ remarks about the work, which has been performed a number of times since its completion in 2009:

a beguiling, beautiful and sometimes perplexing creation…  It unfolds in a series of sharply delineated sections … that cover the gamut from cool jazz to the piano ballads of Carole King. Even the instrumentation has a jazzy feel to it, with the marimbas serving as an unobtrusive rhythm section and the vibraphones doing the solo work.  – Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

Mallet Quartet (2009) is an unashamedly optimistic and radiant work, full of the driving rhythms, catchy melodies and beautiful harmonies for which Reich is famous.  – unsigned, www.ahbbs.net

employs the instruments’ soft, liquid sound to beguiling effect  – Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News

shows the lyrical side of Reich  Jessica Balik, San Francisco Classical Voice

Reich’s first deployment of the five-octave marimba, which has generated a lush tapestry of sounds at the lower end of the spectrum. The two marimbas, conjoined with a pair of vibraphones, yield startling cadences and sudden thematic shifts that fall on the ear like a forest of gossiping wind chimes.  – Allan Ulrich, Financial Times

The Mallet Quartet which Reich completed for Hungary’s Amadinda Quartet and Nexus last fall, is…a showcase for the qualities that make Reich special: his hands-on style, his creativity…The composer drew on his love of West African drumming to use rhythmic variation rather than modulation of keys to give the piece narrative tension….Proof of the world’s fascination with Reich’s music is everywhere. Everyday of the year someone, somewhere is performing something from his five-decade-long composing career.  – John Terauds, Toronto Star

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About NEXUS and Takemitsu’s “From me flows what you call Time…”

“. . .the best thing was this Canadian percussion group. Their unbelievable delicacy of feeling and rich expression were something just beyond my words. They were not only performers but also a part of the piece itself.”  – Nihon Keizai Shinbun, Toyko Japan

“. . .The soloist ensemble was. . .NEXUS, for whom the percussion parts were originally composed (by Takemitsu), like the work of a fine tailor. The phenomenal virtuosity of NEXUS and the arsenal of dozens of different kinds of instruments that are struck or shaken is surely an experience”  – Tampere Aamulehti, Finland

“NEXUS was magnificently in command.”  – The Independent of London

 “(Takemitsu)…has written an exotic showpiece for NEXUS, and the work casts a hypnotic spell as these five adept musicians take their mallets to a daunting array of bells, drums, marimbas and wind chimes…It is a strangely beautiful, lushly erotic work…a performance that seemed well-nigh ideal.”  – Louisville Courier Journal

“Any more picturesque offering from the BBC Proms is hardly imaginable. . .[the] NEXUS players, each one an extraordinary virtuoso”  – The Financial Times

“…a work of mesmerizing beauty…superbly musical NEXUS ensemble.”  – Washington Post

It took an hour to set up the whole panoply (the percussion instruments for Takemitsu’s “From me flows what you call Time”), but no labour could ever have been more worthwhile, the piece proving 35 minutes worth of extraordinary beauty.”  – Birmingham Post, England

NEXUS appeared as soloists in an engrossing, often haunting, recreation of the 30-minute piece… (NEXUS)…created a vivid musical picture with its dazzling array of instruments …The most effective moments were those for percussion alone…”  – Los Angeles Times

Percussion group fill the air with poetry…(at the end of the Takemitsu work) the audience seemed to stir itself from a dreamlike state…and the applause was quite prolonged.”  – Sacramento Bee

“Good things come in fives…NEXUS provided patches of more kinetic, though still meditative, excitement with their improvised sections on a variety of exotic instruments.”  – Times of London

It became a laid-back love-in between NEXUS’ gentle figurations some improvised, some notated – and those coaxed from the BBC Symphony Orchestra by conductor Andrew Davis.”  – The Guardian

The timbre is so rich that the piece has a 3D quality…It is pleasing music to listen to, it opens up your ears to the possibilities of sound. It cleanses and revitalizes the aural palate.”  – Orange County Register

“Takemitsu’s unqualifiedly beautiful and evocative “From me flows what you call Time”…fascinating pre-concert talk…To listen on a CD without seeing the gentle interaction between each player and his instruments or between the men themselves would lose the deep relationship between religious expression and drama…The experience concluded in meditation, which erupted in sustained applause only when the last wind-chime had died away…”  – Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ

“Unlike other professional musicians in the various orchestras, NEXUS is in it for the joy of making music; they love music and perform anytime, anywhere.  There can be no other explanation for their music than this: while they are in full possession of…astounding technique…they perform simply for the pleasure of it.”  – Toru Takemitsu

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NEXUS and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s “Rituals”

A four-movement concerto for 5 Percussionists and Orchestra

co-commissioned in 2003 by NEXUS, the IRIS Orchestra, the Pearl Corporation, Kathleen Holt and Stephen Lurie, and Adams Musical Instruments. Recording available from NAXOS.

“… the piece makes full use of the percussion quintet’s exotic timbres and ritualistic associations…[Zwilich is] one of today’s most versatile composers at the peak of her game.”  – Brian Wise, The Juilliard Journal

“…absolutely worth a second listen… The percussive palette is extraordinary; Rituals creates a parade of exotic imagery inspired by the Japanese finger bells and temple bowls, gongs from Thailand, drums from Africa and much more.”  – Christopher Blank, Commercial Appeal

Like so many works inspired by the NEXUS quintet, ‘Rituals’ is a colorful sound-painting of percussion, exploring timbres usually relegated to an accenting role within the Orchestra.”  – Symphony Magazine January 2006

“…successful…The work cleverly manages to effectively blend a diverse battery of percussion instruments with orchestra…both [The Violin Concerto and Rituals] demonstrate Zwilich’s unmitigated mastery of the concerto medium…her music is supremely listenable, accessible, and perhaps not coincidentally, beautiful.”  – Carol Minor, Sequenza21

“…Zwilich’s vigorously entertaining piece written for…NEXUS, whose five members were on hand for the performance. As they struck, stroked, shook, tapped and bowed the nearly 100 instruments lined up against the back of the stage, conductor Michael Stern led with assurance, neatly blending the kaleidoscopic percussion sonorities into the orchestral fabric. Zwilich’s language here is complex yet approachable, attractive for its transparent textures and fundamentally tonal…At the outset, the percussion itself created a series of angular melodies, using everything from xylophones to cymbals, gongs to tubular bells — and of course lots of drums. At other times they accompanied sweeping violin melodies, punctuated exuberant wind chords with metallic bursts, or used gongs to create a mantra- like mood. The animated percussionists were in excellent form, dancing around the wall of instruments like nimble cats.  – Paul Horsley, Kansas City Star

one of the most melodious and harmonious of percussion concertos and one of Zwilich’s most exciting compositions to date. I was thrilled that this remarkable piece, which is also very exciting to watch, was part of NewMusicBox’s first-ever Webcast of an orchestral concert a little over a year ago, but I’m even more thrilled that it’s finally available on CD. Now if only I could hear it live. Wherever you are, demand that your local orchestra programs this blockbuster piece!  – Frank Oteri, NewMusicBox.com

“Rituals…is a celebration of percussion as used in various world cultures….It’s a total delight, from the opening Invocations, with its stunning pageantry of bells, gongs, and cymbals, to the dancing Ambulation, to the electrifying Contests, where groups of percussionists engage in a thrilling musical combat, set against an orchestral backdrop of increasingly alarming freight-train chords. Under Michael Stern’s leadership, NEXUS/IRIS Chamber Orchestra members play magnificently as they build to a frenzied, exhilarating conclusion…highly enjoyableenthusiastically recommended!”  –  Victor Carr Jr, Classics Today, 12/10/05

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