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Philip GLASS (b. 1937)
Music From The Hours
The Poet Acts [3:40]
Morning Passages [5:30]
Something She Has to Do [3:09]
“For Your Own Benefit” [2:00]
Vanessa and the Changelings [1:45]
“I’m Going to Make a Cake” [4:01]
An Unwelcome Friend [4:08]
Dead Things [4:21]
The Kiss [3:54]
“Why Does Someone Have To Die?” [3:53]
Tearing Herself Away [5:00]
Escape! [3:48]
Choosing Life [3:58]
The Hours [7:44]
Michael Riesman, piano
Arranged for Piano by Michael Riesman and Nico Muhly
Recorded at Baldwin, New York, NY, on 7-9 October, 2003 DDD
ORANGE MOUNTAIN MUSIC 0012 [57:25]



 

Throughout his prestigious career, Philip Glass has tackled a great variety of musical idioms. He has written some of the most influential and powerful opera works of the last four decades. On multiple occasions he has conquered both the symphony and the concerto. However, it is possible that he has enjoyed his greatest amount of success as a scorer of films. He wrote his first film score, Koyaanisqatsi in 1983. Since then he has been called upon by mainstream Hollywood many times starting with Hamburger Hill in 1987, continuing with his award-winning music for The Truman Show. Throughout his forays into film scores Glass has been able to create music that both stands on its own and complements the action on screen. In 2002 he was called upon to create the original music for The Hours starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep. Two years later, Michael Riesman adapted this music for solo piano, resulting in this collection from Orange Mountain Music.

The movie is, in many ways, a symphony of despair. Glass's music is appropriately somber and moving. As is common in his more mature works, the music is melodic and engaging. Gone are the days of Glass exploring a single chord for a short eternity. Here the arpeggiations are constructs for a greater whole, not an end in themselves. He tirelessly moves from one tonality to the next, seamlessly weaving a tapestry of non-functional, but totally consonant chords. As he has done through his entire career, he is able to create music that innovates theoretically while seeming transparent and familiar to the common man. This is the fundament of his brilliance as a composer, and in the film score he was able to create a beautiful collection of poignant sound tapestries.

The music from the film was arranged for piano by Michael Riesman, who together with his assistant Nico Muhly, performs the music. It was arranged for an intermediate player, due to Paramount Music’s desire to issue a solo piano collection based on the score. Riesman’s liner-notes explain the entire history of the creation of the sheet music and the resulting CD. With the exception of the first work, the music on this disc comprises, verbatim, the arrangements that were published in that sheet music book.

As the music was arranged for an intermediate player, and is a distillation of the more complex and robust symphonic works, it is probably unfair to compare the result to the original score. However, such a comparison is inevitable. Taken for what it is, the performance is very good. In comparison, the textures, timbres, and subtleties that a symphonic score contains just cannot be totally transported to a single piano. This is especially true when one is also actively attending to constraining the technical difficulty for performance. The music is performed quite adequately, but the listener should not expect to be blown away by anything resembling Chopin or Rachmaninov.

That said, the music as presented is quite soothing and accessible. While it won't astound the user through acrobatic feats of performance, neither will it offend or distract them unduly. It is pretty. It’s not a Chopin scherzo, but neither is it ‘Chopsticks’. While it is an adequate rendition of the pieces, it simply isn't the film score.

Should a pianist be looking for audible instruction for the sheet music, or a listener desire a stripped-down collection of minimalist piano works, then this is ideal. If one is unfamiliar with The Hours or the film score from the movie, this is probably a good, if unremarkable, collection of Glass’s music. If the intended audience is someone who truly loves the film score or a fan of symphonic music there are better selections.

Patrick Gary



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