There were no premieres this time for minimalist master Steve Reich and Musicians, who visited Wadsworth Theatre Saturday evening. But the familiar program--three recent works prefaced by an excerpt from the 1971 "Drumming"--generated its own excitement and proved once again the wide expressive range of a style often regarded as purely mechanical.
The easy standout on this occasion was "Electric Counterpoint," a rare and joyful exercise in almost lyric whimsy. Guitarist David Tanenbaum played with eager, caressive elan and pinpoint accuracy, imposing a surprising feeling of spontaneity on the prerecorded accompaniment.
The Sextet, for four percussionists and two keyboard players, had a curiously stiff beginning. It settled into a rapt, limber flow, however, as the clearly well-practiced ensemble let the interlocking patterns develop their own set of musical checks and balances.
After intermission came "Different Trains," Reich's fusion of autobiography, Holocaust remembrance and blatant musical pictorialism. This melodrama of taped voices, imitated by a string quartet amid much motoric chugging and wailing whistles, is not subtle stuff. But it has the courage of its convictions, both musical and psycho-social, and the ad hoc touring quartet brought it off with visceral urgency.
Reich took a hand himself in Part I of "Drumming," a declamatory statement of rhythmic purpose. He and three other drummers ministered to a row of small tuned toms, beating out all the motivic permutations with an almost casual concentration.