> Philip GLASS - ‘The World of Philip Glass’ [MC]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Philip GLASS (b.1937)
‘The World of Philip Glass’
Music from ‘Low’ Symphony (1992)
Subterraneans [15:09]

Music from ‘The Screens’ (circa. 1989)Land of the Dead [3:28]
Said’s Treason [3:00]
The Orchard [7:09]
Night on the Balcony [2:05]

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1987) Third movement, finale [9:29]


Music from ‘Aguas da Amazonia’ (circa 1993) adapted by Marco Antonio Guimaraes
Amazon River [7:24]

Music from ‘Heroes’ Symphony (1996)

  • Abdulmajid [8:54]
  • V2 Schneider [6:51]

  • Track 1, The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor: Dennis Russell Davies.
    Recorded at the Looking Glass Studios, NYC. USA. circa. 1993.
    Tracks 2-5, (Philip Glass and Foday Musa Suso) Instrumental Ensemble, Conductor: Martin Goldray.
    Recorded at the Looking Glass Studios, NYC. USA. circa. 1992.
    Track 6, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Violin: Gidon Kremer, Conductor: Christoph von Dohnanyi.
    Recorded at Vienna, Musikverein, Grosser Saal, Austria, February 1992.
    Track 7, Ensemble UAKTI
    Recorded at the Polifonia Studios, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, December 1993.
    Track 8-9, The American Composers Orchestra,
    Conductor: Dennis Russell Davies.
    Recorded at the Looking Glass Studios, NYC, USA. circa. 1996
    DECCA 470 775-2 [63:47]

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    The general view of the music of Philip Glass is that you either love it or hate it and this statement has become used so often that it has become a cliché. Irrespective of the above however one must certainly respect him as, at the time of these compositions, he was undoubtedly America’s most successful living composer. A mantle I believe now held by Glass’s contemporary John Adams. In fact, Glass has been commercial and profitable for many years and it is over eleven years ago that his album ‘Songs from Liquid Days’ sold over 250,000 copies. "Film, theatre and ballet music has a larger public so I sell better than other composers ", states Glass, with a rather matter of fact pride.

    Glass has certainly come a long way from his yellow-taxi driving days in New York City just prior to obtaining his life-changing commission to compose the opera ‘Satyagraha’. Record sellers, music critics and marketeers have all attempted to label Glass’s work using terms such as ‘crossover’, ‘fusion’, ‘rock/pop’ and ‘new age’. Not surprisingly it is the label ‘minimalist’ that that has stuck perennially to describe Glass’s music. In 1991 I recall Glass dismissing this label given to his early reductive, repetitive music as a, "kind of joke, an historical document which had its heyday in the late 1960s and caught on with the critics 15 years later." Glass never did call his music minimalist, saying that it was a term used by the marketing men to decide which shelves would best shift the product.

    Decca present here a CD entitled ‘The world of Philip Glass’. It serves as a fine introduction, providing the listener with a very reasonable cross-section of that uniquely personal soundworld that has given him his fame and fortune.

    Noted more for his chamber works than for orchestral composition, three of the tracks see Glass paying homage at the shrines of David Bowie and his sometimes collaborator Brain Eno. ‘Subterraneans’ is based on their 1977 album ‘Low’ and ‘Abdulmajid’ and ‘V2 Schneider’ from their later ‘Heroes’ album. In these adaptations of the Bowie and Eno albums we see Glass successfully create and combine symphonic adaptations from rock/pop. The themes are not used directly with Glass generating his own variations from the material whilst still enabling the originals to be recognised.

    Another Glass collaboration with Jean Genet and African musician Foday Musa Suso provides the inspiration for the music from ‘The Screens’, four movements of which are contained on the disc. These works show the varied and imaginative side of Glass, using a range of instrumental forces from a rhythmic solo keyboard on ‘Night On The Balcony’ and a Ronnie Lane of ‘The Faces’-style barn dance played on acoustic guitar in ‘Said’s Treason’.

    The third movement finale is provided from Glass’s successful and much recorded Violin Concerto from 1987. The concerto uses the violin often as an integral part of the orchestra, in a similar way to how Britten used the Cello in his Cello Symphony. The world famous violinist Gidon Kremer is the red-blooded soloist on this recording. Other versions feature the soloist Robert McDuffie with the Houston SO on Telarc 80494 and the much fêted performance from Adèle Anthony with the Ulster Orchestra on Naxos 8.554568.

    The Brazilian group UAKTI are the performers in ‘Amazon River’ which is one of a set of ten movements adapted from Glass’s ballet ‘Aguas da Amazonia’. This is an engaging piece, ethnic in feel, featuring mainly percussive rhythms with woodwind. These gradually accelerate in tempo before the work returns to the starting point.

    Decca’s compilation demonstrates Glass’s familiar ‘minimalist’ style. This is certainly rhythmic and colourful, written with his usual assured precision and with his trademark meditative and repetitive spiralling themes and rippling arpeggios. The recording is up to Decca’s usual high standard, the booklet notes are acceptable and the selected performances are fine too. A perfect introduction to the world of Philip Glass.

    Michael Cookson

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