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
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.
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
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.