Minimal Extreme – review

Minimal Roots
Kate Molleson, The Guardian
Mandag, 26. marts

This weekend was the latest and boldest of Glasgow's ongoing Minimal series, featuring iconic works that prod at the barest of bare essentials. There was Stockhausen's Stimmung, Terry Riley's In C, even Morton Feldman's Second String Quartet, which lasts a whopping six hours and never gets louder than "piano" or faster than very long notes.

Opening night was dedicated to the Dutch maverick Louis Andriessen, who, at a sprightly 72, had flown in for the occasion and bounded about the stage thanking his performers. He had good reason, too. The formidable combined talents of the Smith Quartet, London Sinfonietta and New York's Bang on a Can All-Stars treated his tricky process music with exactly the playful reverence and deadly precision it deserves. Also in the mix was Gavin Bryars's 1971 classic Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet, Steve Reich's Eight Lines (1977) and his fairly new 2x5 – an acutely balanced work of chamber music for a double quintet of real and recorded rock instruments. Ars Nova singing Allegri's Miserere was a serious luxury bonus to end the night.

Compared with his contemporaries, Andriessen – son of a Catholic church organist, an early jazz addict – uses a chromatic palette that always sounded more intrepid. This wasn't a retrospective as such; Andriessen's style is far too diverse to sum up in one evening. Of his four pieces played, two (Hoketus and Workers Union) were written in the 1970s and two (Life and ... miserere ...) within the last decade, so we didn't hear the evolution that happened in between. The recent works have mellowed into an introspective and slightly insipid sound world. But played live and loud as here, the early ones still brim with a rowdy, bright-eyed, invigorating energy that can knock your socks off.