For years the Baltimore-born
Philip Glass seemed to be the exclusive property of Nonesuch
and CBS-Sony. His music can now be found on many labels including
DG-Universal and now Naxos who have also branched out into Adams
Flight and propulsion lie at
the heart of the much of the writing of the Third Symphony which in its constant insistent interplay of colour
and repetitive rhythmic cells exercises a considerable spell
upon the listener. Another element at play is a kind of Berber,
North African sinuous flavouring and the thudding regularity
of the strings’ Holstian heart-beat
in the finale. The textures are enriched by the widening and
unwinding melodic flow of the leader’s solo violin coursing
like a magnetically-stabilising force through the mists of rhythmic
activity. The power of the sound belies the specification of
only nineteen string players. The Second
Symphony is for full orchestra, written for and premiered
at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It is a work of ambitious
proportions in three meaty movements of which the first has
an insistent harp undertow and sighing figures that sometimes
recall the first movement of Vaughan Williams’ Sixth Symphony.
Breathing and lapping cells are part of the Glass currency and
he spends this again in the second movement which is dark and
conspiratorial in tone until rising up in a sort of chaffing
heroism. Fast-spinning incessant whirlpool activity characterises
the finale emphasised by bell-sounds at the climaxes and ending
in the sort of emphatic stomp you find in the imposing large-scale
orchestral pieces of William Schuman.
The Second Symphony has been
recorded before on Nonesuch-Warner 7559 79496-2 with the Dennis
Russell Davies conducting the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
The same disc also has the Interlude from Orphée and the Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra.
The usual Naxos design for
the American Classics series is encased in a blue-green atmospherically
designed card slip case; not unusual for releases that Naxos
consider to be special.
There are no other similarly
coupled alternative versions. Clearly the linkage of these two
symphonies has a certain logic. If the concept attracts then
the price and the musical and technical values match the best.