Quartet, when mentioned in the context of concert music, is generally assumed to mean string
quartet. In my case, the quartet that has played a central role in many of my pieces (besides the
string quartet) is that of two pianos and two percussion. It appears like that or in expanded form
with more pianos or more percussion in The Desert Music, Sextet, Three Movements, The Four
Sections, The Cave, Dance Patterns, Three Tales, You Are (Variations), Variations for Vibes,
Pianos and Strings, Daniel Variations, Double Sextet, and Radio Rewrite. In Quartet, there is
just this group alone: two vibes and two pianos.
The piece is one of the more complex I have composed. It frequently changes key and often
breaks off continuity to pause or take up new material. Though the parts are not unduly difficult,
it calls for a high level of ensemble virtuosity.
The form is one familiar throughout history: fast, slow, fast, played without pause. The slow
movement introduces harmonies not usually found in my music.
The piece is dedicated to Colin Currie, a percussionist who has broken the mold by maintaining
his solo career with orchestras and recitals and also, quite amazingly, by founding the Colin
Currie Group which plays whatever ensemble music he believes in. I salute him and hope
others will take note.
Quartet was co-commissioned by Southbank Centre, Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, Cité
de la musique, and Kölner Philharmonie / KölnMusik, and is approximately 17 minutes in
duration. —Steve Reich
Annotated by Reed Puleo