Reich Richter Pärt is a pair of collaborations between the American composer Steve Reich, the German painter Gerhard Richter, and the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. I’m an admirer of all three men, so this event was a no-brainer for me, and since I knew Frank would be into it too, I invited him along as a belated birthday gift.
The first performance pairs Pärt’s 2014 choral piece, Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima, with wallpapers and tapestries created by Richter. Performed by the 21-piece Choir of Trinity Wall Street, who individually roamed the room while singing, the music was gorgeous and immersive, but the visual component was somewhat underwhelming. The abstract works on display were meant to evoke stained glass, presumably to align with Pärt’s religious music, but their spare arrangement in the Shed’s sterile gallery space—too big to feel intimate and too small to feel cavernous—dulled their impact. Fátima, which is less than two minutes long, was performed about five times in a row with a few seconds of silence between each instance. It wasn’t unenjoyable, but the whole thing felt half-baked.
The Reich/Richter collaboration, on the other hand, was just about everything I wanted it to be. Essentially a film version of Richter’s 2012 book, Patterns, it’s a mesmerizing, kaleidescopic deconstruction of an abstract painting, a slowly mutating framework of varying density and color. If you know Reich’s work, especially his early preoccupation with phasing, it’s no surprise that Patterns took inspiration from it, and Reich’s score for the film, performed live by Ensemble Signal, fit the imagery like a glove. Another collaborator on the film, Corinna Belz, previously directed the documentary Gerhard Richter Painting, which I’m now curious to revisit.
Side note: Elvis Costello was randomly in the audience with us!