The music of Louis
Glass has had quite a renaissance over
the last two decades. The Fifth Symphony
is a glorious late-romantic work that
should be in everybody’s collection.
I owe it to a good Danish friend of
many years ago who sent me a much-prized
tape of Glass’s masterwork, the Fifth
Symphony Sinfonia Svastica -
a reference to the Indian symbol of
eternal renewal not the Nazi logo -
for putting Glass on the map for me.
There are now three versions of that
Symphony (Jensen; Todorov, Marchbank)
though none excels that radio tape (Danish
Radio Symphony Orchestra/Michael Schønwandt).
Since then all the symphonies have been
recorded, much of the chamber music
and a selection of the piano music.
Here to join that selection is a disc
of two earlyish larger-scale chamber
The String Sextet
blends the world of Grieg's Lyric
Suite and Holberg Suite with
that of Smetana's String Quartet No.
1 From My Life. This is especially
true of the molto allegro and
the scherzo in the latter of
which Mendelssohn's Octet might be playing
a part. There's that same feeling of
immersion in life but with the artists
always keeping a backward cast eye on
inimical fate. There's an andante
that is influenced by the Siegfried
Idyll. The finale is an allegro
giocoso which, despite its mood
marking, is not uncomplicatedly joyous.
This is another fine romantic octet
in the later classical vein although
the finale is over-extended.
The Piano Quintet
is of symphonic proportions at not
all that short of forty minutes. It
is dedicated to the Swedish composer
Tor Aulin. It has a shimmer and shuddering
triumph which sounds ceremonial - almost
imperial at 3:02 in I. There are moments
where it is like the more regal parts
of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.
In the second movement molto adagio
there are some monumental lumber and
cumber effects as at 4.30 of the piece.
The final Allegretto Scherzando
has some of the ballroom bustle of the
String Sextet - a touch academic perhaps.
In the sentimental Allegro Risoluto
it is as if a ballad is sung articulated
in amber and sepia by the cello solo
at 1.10. Bruckner’s rush and halt, rush
and halt can also be heard (8.19).
Neither work touches
the heights of the Fifth Symphony but
this is honest music which retains the
capacity to charm and move.