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Philip GLASS (b. 1937)
Les Enfants Terribles Ė Children of the Game (1996) [1:29:57]
Christine Arand, soprano (Lise)
Philip Cutlip, bass-baritone (Paul)
Hal Cazalet, tenor (Gerard, narrator)
Valerie Komar, mezzo (Dargelos, Agathe)
Philip Glass, Nelson Padgett, and Eleanor Sandresky, keyboards
Karen Kemensek, conductor
rec. Lutheran Church, Wendelstein, 9-12 September 2002; Church of St. Lorenz, Nuremberg, Germany, 25 January 2003 DDD
ORANGE MOUNTAIN MUSIC OMM0019 [49:06 + 40:51]

The third of the Philip Glass stage pieces based on the works of Jean Cocteau, Les Enfants Terribles, is a dance-opera. The singers are all expected to be multiply talented, equally capable as musicians and dancers. Gerard, the narrator, tells the story of a brother and sister who live in their own fantasy world, totally removed from the real world. The sister, Lise, eventually starts to exist more in the world of natural reality until tragedy strikes. Her solution to her unhappiness ends in the death of both her and her brother when they try to rejuvenate their fantasy world.

The music is classically Glass, though not Glass at his most repetitive. Each individual piece is built on the minimalist repetitive structure with its steady pulse and consonant drones in the left hand. The instrumentation is extremely small: piano and voice or piano in solo or duet encompasses the entire expanse of instrumentations. There are times when the vocals are spoken in English over the extended ostinatos by the narrator. Otherwise the vocalists sing in French. Glass uses the music to literally interpret the words where he can, aiding the pairing of the sound with the text. One can assume that he does meld the music to the dance as well, though it is difficult to tell when there are no visual elements from the ballet included.

Thus the plot line is fairly simple, with only 5 total characters appearing. The complexity is derived mostly from the emotions expressed in dance and song. Theatrically this is largely a success. Unfortunately this is not as true when considered solely in the realm of this recording.

Philip Glassís music is at its best when it is presented with a broad palate of timbres to break up the monotony of repetition. When presented in the format of piano and vocalist only there must be a truly compelling vocal performance. With this type of instrumentation, Glassís greatest success was his collaboration with Allen Ginsberg, "Hydrogen Jukebox". When coupled with the dance, this music is properly presented. Without the dance, the music truly should be edited to a shorter, faster moving, more compelling work. Presented in its full length without dancers, the result is overly ponderous.

It actually is a shame that this was not edited. The music is certainly not without merit. It is distinctively Philip Glass, with all that implies. His musical thoughts are well expressed and performed through both discs. Were the total length halved, this would be a masterfully produced piece of music. Performed live or on video it is surely captivating. Alas, once this work does not end somewhere around 50 minutes it simply becomes over-long. There is too much repetition of previous thematic material and too little musical development to bear the weight of the work without the drama. That said, the performances are well done. If individual works are included in some form of Philip Glass iPod shuffle then this music holds up. If the work is to be performed, this is a very good reference point. Otherwise this is probably a work for the Glass completist more than the casual listener.

Patrick Gary


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