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Philip GLASS (b.1937)
The Sound of a Voice Suite (2003) [19.27]
In the Summer House (1993) (In The Summer House  [1:30]; "My One And Only Hope....."  [1:33]; Gertrude's Paradise  [2:19]; Mr. Solares' Picnic Lunch  [2:58]; "Molly Is A Dreamer."  [1:04]; Enter Vivian  [1:05]; The Beach/Lionel And Molly  [0:50]; Vivian's Death/Two Marriages  [0:37]; "Life Is Tragic, Mrs Constable."  [2:12]; Gertrude Leaves The Summer House  [2:40]; Left Alone......  [1:33]; The Lobster Bowl  [1:08]; Back To Sad Things  [0:55]; Gertrude Returns  [1:06]; "I Knew You'd Come Back."  [1:30]; A Choice  [2:40]; Lionel Departs  [2:08]; "When I Was A Little Girl...."  [6:32])
Wu Man (pipa); Lynn Chang (violin); Peter Rajto (cello); Tara Heleno O’Connor (flute); Gary Cook (percussion) [Sound of a Voice]; Krista Feeny (violin); Richerd Sher (cello) [Summer House].
rec. March 2006, Tuscon Convention Center Leo Rich Theater [Sound of a Voice]; June 1993, Looking Glass Studio, New York [Summer House].

This disc is the first in a series of ten volumes that will cover the theatre music of Philip Glass, published by his label Orange Mountain Music. 

While the general public is familiar with Glass’s work in opera and film soundtracks, he has had a prolific career writing incidental music for the theatre. In some cases the music comprises interludes, and in others more complex works. This disc features two such works, one from an opera and another from a play. 

The first work, a twenty-minute suite extracted from the opera The Sound of a Voice, is an eastern-influenced work, featuring a pipa, which gives it a Japanese colour. It is a very un-Glassian work, and if I had heard it on the radio, I wouldn’t immediately have thought of Philip Glass. While some of his signature repetitions appear in the work, its tone and structure are very different from most of his music. With a combination of eastern and western melodies, this work intrigues. However, this music is, apparently, a rearrangement of material from an opera; it would be interested to hear the work in its entirety. Nevertheless, the suite stands on its own, and is very interesting. The recording, though, leaves a bit to be desired. It may not have been recorded with the intention of releasing it on disc. The music sounds a bit muted and distant, and occasional coughing from the audience can be disturbing. 

The second work is a series of short pieces that were composed to accompany a production of a Paul Bowles’ play In the Summer House, first presented in 1993 at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York. With minimal instrumentation - violin and cello only - these short pieces, most one to two minutes long, feature a style much more familiar to Glass aficionados. Recalling Glass’s string quartet version of his Dracula score, the interplay of the two instruments ebbs and flows through lyrical and repetitive sections, yet sounds more like tafelmusik than Sound of a Voice, which tends to stand on its own taken out of context. These works are interesting as a selection of studies for two instruments, since none of them goes far enough with its melodic structure to be more than a musical interlude. Yet there are fine sections, with some haunting melodies, and the final section, "When I Was A Little Girl....", at over six minutes, is a plaintive summary of the entire collection. 

While this disc won’t attract the casual listener, fans of Philip Glass will want to pick it up if only for a varied style of music that is almost unfamiliar. I can only hope that subsequent volumes in this series offer works that are as varied and interesting as this. While not essential Glass, this disc shows another facet of the composer’s work. 

Kirk McElhearn 



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