GLASS (b. 1937) The Concerto Project - Volume II
Piano Concerto No. 2 “After Lewis And Clark” (2004) [35:36]
Concerto for harpsichord and orchestra (2002) [23:17]
(piano), R. Carlos Nakai (Native American flute)
Jillon Stoppels Dupree (harpsichord)
Northwest Chamber Orchestra/Ralf Gothóni
rec. Bastyr University Chapel, Kenmore, Washington State,
September 2005 ORANGE MOUNTAIN MUSIC
Unless you have just arrived
from Mars, you know in advance what you are going to get
with Philip Glass: there is no mystery about the style, unlike
Stravinsky, for example. A word of advice for the interplanetary
travellers – perhaps you would be better
to start with Mozart! You either like the Glass style or
you don’t. I don’t believe there would be too many people
who are ambivalent about his version of minimalism.
As a consequence, I am assuming
that if you have read this far, indeed that you have even
clicked on the review link, then you are here because you
are in the former camp and you therefore don’t need a detailed
explanation of his characteristic language.
Both works presented here
were written after Glass’s work on the film-score for The
Hours (see review)
and each shares the melody and romanticism that feature so
strongly in that music. If like me, you consider that film
score to be something approaching a masterpiece - it is one
of my Classic Classics - then you will very much enjoy these
Paul Barnes, has transcribed
some of Glass’s operas for piano, and commissioned the composer
to write a new work for piano. It was Barnes who proposed
the program of the story of the American explorers, Lewis
and Clark, which inspired the composer to include the sound
of the Native American flute in the second movement.
The first movement is entitled “The
Vision” and is described by Glass as “musical steamroller” signifying
the resolve and energy of the two explorers. The characteristic
motoric Glass rhythms are an obvious match for such a musical
picture, and Glass makes his soloist work hard: the piano
rests for only four bars in the eleven-minute movement. The
second movement, “Sacagawea” is a duet between the piano
and Native American flute and features the renowned flutist
Carlos Nakai. Sacagawea was a Shoshone Indian and companion
for the explorers. The flute is given two themes: one representing
her name in music, the second a traditional Shoshone dance.
The final movement – “The Land” – is the longest of the three,
and is not a traditional virtuoso finale for the soloist.
I find it the strongest of the three, perhaps not surprisingly
as it is closest in tone to the music from The Hours in
its emotion, and in places, sadness.
I am usually not a fan of
the harpsichord, preferring my baroque keyboard music on
the piano, so I was totally unprepared for just how wonderful
this Harpsichord Concerto is. It begins as though we have
stumbled into a toccata by Bach, before the orchestra enters
with characteristic Glassisms. Throughout the movement, there
is a sense of being carried forwards and backwards in time.
There is a prominent role for the flute as support for the
keyboard through the first movement. The second is a glorious
adagio in all but title - there are no tempo indications
for any of the movements – and has a role for solo violin
and flute again. Gravely beautiful and intensely moving,
it is, without doubt, one of the finest achievements of Glass’s
long career. The finale is 4:50 of sheer fun, jazzy in its
syncopation, and gives Ms Dupree the chance to let her hair
down after the elegance and beauty of the first two movements.
I can imagine the performers and audience breaking out into
the widest of smiles as the work moves towards its giddy
The two keyboard soloists
premiered these works and perform with distinction. The Northwest
Chamber Orchestra which unfortunately folded in 2006 (see article in the Seattle Times) play with gusto and
delicacy as required. The recording is rich and defined,
and the harpsichord is neither too prominent nor shrill.
My website duties for MusicWeb
International restrict my time for writing reviews, so I
limit myself to CDs which have really impressed me. This
is one such recording, and there is absolutely no doubt that
this will appear among my Records of the Year.
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