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Philip GLASS (b. 1937)
Of Beauty & Light
CD 1 [70:09]
The Light (1987) [23:43]
Symphony No. 4 Heroes Symphony (1996) [46:26]
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop
rec. The Concert Hall, Lighthouse, Poole, Dorset, 16-17 May 2006. DDD
Naxos American Classics 8.559202 CD 2 [67:07]
Symphony No. 2 (1995) [43:14]
Symphony No. 3 (1994) [23:54]
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop
rec. The Concert Hall, Lighthouse, Poole, Dorset, 20-21 July 2003
Naxos American Classics 8.559202 CD 3 [52:46]
Company [8:50]
Violin Concerto (1987) [24:51]
Prelude and Dance from Akhnaten (1984) [17:52]
Adele Anthony (violin)
Ulster Orchestra/Takuo Yuasa
Ulster Hall, Belfast, 19-21 May 1999.
Naxos 8.554568
NAXOS 8.503202 [3 CDs: 70:09 + 67:07 + 51:46]


Experience Classicsonline

Naxos have a reputation for enterprise and ingenuity. Capitalising on the popularity of Philip Glass they now issue as a single entity the two discs issued over the last five years and another dating from almost a decade ago. The collection makes sense and is undeniably attractive.

The Second Symphony is for full orchestra. It is an ambitious work in three meaty movements of which the first has an insistent harp undertow and sighing figures that sometimes recall the first movement of Vaughan Williamsí Sixth. Fast-spinning incessant whirlpool activity characterises the finale emphasised by bell-sounds at the climaxes and ending in an emphatic stomp.

Flight and propulsion lie at the heart of the much of Glassís writing. In the Third Symphony itís there in the constant insistent interplay of colour and repetitive rhythmic cells. Another element is the Berber, North African sinuous flavouring and the thudding regularity of the stringsí Holstian heart-beat.

The Light is part of an ambitious Sibelian symphonic triptych (1987-89) alongside the later The Canyon and Itaipu. It is a stormy piece in which Glassís insistent ostinato cells ripple, flow, fall and return. I thought several times of the gripping troika-figure in Sibeliusís Nightride and Sunrise. This however has grander intentions. Memorable are its lapping-sighing-flaming woodwind and string figure akin to Herrmannís chase music from North by North-West. There is a typically visceral pounding and thudding tempest of a climax before the music falls away into contemplation.

The Heroes Symphony traces its origins to two albums on which the composer collaborated with David Bowie in Berlin: Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979). The six movements of the symphony are: Heroes; Abdulmajid; Sense of Doubt; Sons of the Silent Age; NeukŲln; V2 Schneider. I wish I knew what these titles meant. The second movement is a fragile and enchanting with its North African repetitive understatement recalling Holstís In the Street of Ouled Nails movement from Beni Mora. At times I also heard intimations of de Falla (the ostinatos El Amor Brujo) and Copland (the 1940s pastoral scores).

The disc which has been longest in the catalogue is that featuring the Violin Concerto in a good performance from Adele Anthony but not one that outpoints the one from Robert McDuffie on Telarc (CD-80494) or, even more imposingly, the original DG recording with Gidon Kremer. Anthony is notably good in the wonderful way in which she handles the more confiding music in the finale. Both Company and Akhnaten do no violence to your expectations of Glass. No surprises then but attractive music-making. This disc lacks the compelling qualities of the other two.

Glass stays firmly in his accustomed and enthralling tracks. These are musical experiences that engage and draw you in. His potent way with hypno-rhythmic tonal writing continues in full spate.

Rob Barnett


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