As I said in a review of another Philip Glass recording “you know in advance what you are going to get with Philip Glass”. Even more so in the case of this recording, where some of the works - The Hours, Mishima and Company - are already quite known.
The French-Canadian string ensemble La Pietà - all female, in case you hadn’t guessed - and their leader Angèle Dubeau present what is essentially a sampler of the accessible, more recent Glass. Does that mean it will only appeal for someone wishing to hesitantly dip their toe into the Glass pool and be of no interest to the Glass aficionado? Definitely not - the works are all complete as long as you count overtures and opening credits as individual pieces. Some lesser known pieces are included and the performances and acoustics are excellent.
The overture for the “multimedia opera project” La Belle et al Bête
(Beauty and the Beast) for piano and strings is the most dramatic and up-tempo music on the disc and gets proceedings off to a fine start. You can see the whole piece performed by Dubeau and La Pietà on Youtube
I regard the score for The Hours
as one of the finest ever written, and this concerto-style arrangement by long-time Glass collaborator Michael Reisman allows a greater continuity than the original itself allows.
I hadn’t heard The Secret Agent
film-score before, and based on this haunting cello-dominated extract, I went searching for the complete music, which is available on Nonesuch and I am ordering it as I write. Echorus
was written for Yehudi Meuhin and the sleeve-notes describe it as akin to a Baroque chaconne, and quotes Philip Glass “it is meant to evoke feelings of serenity and peace”, which it certainly achieves.
are respectively string quartets 3 and 2, presented here in their string orchestra versions. The former is more sombre, the latter dominated by the archetypal Glass motoric rhythms and the final eponymously titled movement of Mishima
is quite beautiful. The disc ends as it began with piano joining the strings for the elegiac Closing, from Glassworks, and one of the first compositions intended to broaden the audience for Glass’s music.
Detractors will say that there is little variation in atmosphere through the fifteen tracks on the disc, and that is true. However, as I said at the start, you already know that with this composer. In fact, the very constancy of the music’s mood makes this a recording that works at two different levels. Listen to it intently and you are rewarded by glorious melodies and the subtle variations that are his stock-in-trade, or have it playing in the background and soothe your troubled soul.
Suffice to say in conclusion that this is one of the best CDs I have bought this year.
David J Barker