Music review: Colin Currie and the Miro Quartet at the Terrace Theater

Colin Currie
The Washington Post

By Joe Banno

Composer Steve Reich cast a long shadow over Thursday’s Terrace Theater recital by percussionist Colin Currie and the Miro Quartet. Reich’s own piece, “Nagoya Marimbas” — which had Currie playing a live, mirror-image marimba part half a beat behind a recorded marimba solo — offered classic Reichian minimalism in its repetitive rhythmic cells and pointillist bursts of color. Next to that piece, if Michael Torke’s chamber-scaled concerto for marimba and string quartet, “Mojave,” sounded like Reich-lite, the comparison didn’t diminish the work’s breezy charms, where a blend of looser-limbed minimalism and feel-good neo-romanticism evoked the desert car trips Torke regularly takes between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Steve Martland counts Reich as an influence on his own music, and his piece “Starry Night” put the Miro strings through their paces in writing that sounded as if furious, Paganini-like virtuoso riffs were locked into some sort of tape loop and then broken into repeated melodic shards cut off by fraught silences. The expanding and contracting rhythmic figures in Louis Andriessen’s witty and fiendishly difficult work for wood blocks and marimba, “Woodpecker” (played dazzlingly by Currie) , brought Reich’s early percussion pieces to mind. Dave Maric’s “Run Chime” filtered Reich’s perpetual-motion-machine style through a progressive jazz lens.

Even the moodily dissonant score “Since Brass, nor Stone . . . ” by the anything-but-Reichian modernist Alexander Goehr, featured obsessively repeated phrases on a battery of percussion instruments. And, thanks to the Miro’s lean, febrile readings of Schubert’s “Quartettsatz” and Barber’s Adagio for Strings, we managed to hear proto-minimalist leanings in these decidedly old-world scores.