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Beauty and Terror

Smith Quartet Different TrainsThis is a difficult album to sit with – because of the title piece, Different Trains, which is of course a famous piece of modern music which contains the dreadful weight of our twentieth century history within it. ‘Inspired’ by an awareness of the musical and rhythmic possibilities of the sound of trains, Reich wove these train sounds, together with recorded speech, and strong music, into a 3 movement piece, America before the war, Europe During the war years, Europe after the war. The dark despair of smith_quartet1certain train journeys in Europe is overwhelming in this piece, their destinations underscored by the voices of camp survivors woven into the last 2 movements. A horrific, horrifying piece. It IS a piece of music, but one which I find it impossible to relate to in terms of musical interpretation. It is a piece which had to be written, given events, but should NEVER have had to be written, at least the last 2 movements, hence the unbearableness of this piece.

I am grateful for the ordering of the pieces in this. I have a version Different Trains / Electric Counterpoint with Pat Methany, and have to say I cannot listen to anything after Different Trains itself, as I am too overwhelmed. It seems equally impossible, disrespectful, to ignore DT and just play Electric Counterpoint.

On this disc, I can come to DT after the experience of the very very beautiful Triple Quartet, and Duet. Music which is edgy, driving, containing that sense of movement and journey – indeed, it hints, inexorably at the Different Trains which darkly await, but I can be moved by the strange beauty of the dissonance of these cross rhythms, arising lyrical lines which weave through close, jarring harmonic. ‘Triple Quartet’ is so called because the quartet either accompanies itself, having prerecorded, twice, itself playing the music, if it happens ‘live’ or has 3 quartets playing together. Triple Quartet Duet – duetting violins and doubled viola and cello duets is lyrical, sweet, and warm, dedicated by Reich to, and inspired by, Yehudi Menuhin for his humanitarian works

I have recently discovered the Smith Quartet. I am enamoured.

Tracks are: Triple Quartet;Duet:Different Trains
Steve Reich – Different Trains – Smith Quartet Amazon UK
Steve Reich – Different Trains – Smith Quartet Amazon USA

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