Classical review: Max Richter, Edinburgh

At the Usher Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

At the Usher Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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Max Richter has made a name for himself in a classical marketplace that settles for eclectic simplicity as opposed to distinctive statement.

Max Richter | Usher Hall, Edinburgh | Rating ***

He is a post-minimalist who emulates the simplest ideas of Philip Glass to the point of unashamed mimicry. It’s a spiritual experience for those who crave the original minimalist drug, many of whom “shared a spliff” at the Usher Hall on Tuesday.

There were two parts – a 35-minute sequence from Richter’s second album The Blue Notebooks, with narrated texts from Kafka; and an hour-plus selection from last year’s epic album Sleep, the original being an eight-hour work designed to effect a somnolent torpor, but which can easily do the opposite if your mind reacts by fighting against it.

The problem is, Richter’s style is so predictable. We’ve heard it all before from Glass, Reich, Eno, and the rest. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautifully and seamlessly presented: Richter’s timeless and understated pianism and laptop wizardry; the lugubrious and sinuous layering and looping of an ambient string quintet, at one point holding a single chord for just short of ten minutes; and the singer in Sleep, adding a seraphic vocalised mist to the puffs of dry ice that gave kinetic atmosphere to the purple-lit staging.

But this is not original music. Glass once told me that, for minimalism to survive, each new creator had to apply his or her own unique fingerprint. Richter is a skilful borrower and craftsman.

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