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Steve Reich, 'Runner'

If you've ever been hesitant to dip your toe into the pulsating music of Steve Reich, now is the time to take a full plunge. The 86-year-old composer has just released his 26th album on Nonesuch and it features Runner, an ebullient piece in five connected movements that might just be Reich's most accessible work since Music for 18 Musicians in the mid-'70s.

Runner teems with all that is vibrant and mesmerizing in Reich's music. It opens with the piano setting a pulse of toggling 16th notes, while strings, winds and percussion file in separately to create an enchanting whirligig of interlocking layers. The music buzzes in weightlessness. Keep an ear out for the passage, beginning at 1:28, where two chirping oboes chase each other as vibraphones chime like clocks. It is among the sunniest, most joyous stretches in Reich's catalog. Hats off to conductor Susanna Mälkki, who leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a vigorous, transparent performance.

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Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.
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