Philip GLASS (b.1937)
Opening from Glassworks (1982) [6:16]
Metamorphosis I-V (1988) [29:54]
Six selections from The Hours (2002) [25:55]
All pieces transcribed by Lavinia Meijer
Lavinia Meijer (harp)
rec. May 2012, Doopsgezinde Kerk, Deventer, The Netherlands
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCS SA 33912 [62:05]
Philip GLASS (b.1937)
Opening from Glassworks (1981) [4:17]
Helen’s Tune (1992) [3:13]
Metamorphosis I-V (1988) [23:43]
Modern Love Waltz (1978) [3:36]
Why does someone have to die? (from The Hours, 2002) [3:34]
Trilogy Sonata (2000) [21:11]
Closing from Glassworks (1981) [4:22]
All pieces transcribed by Floraleda Sacchi
Floraleda Sacchi (harp and “creative mix”)
rec. 27 and 29 October 2012, Como, Italy
AMADEUS ARTE AAP12002 [63:56]
I’ve seen a lot of weird coincidences in the CD market, but two albums of Philip Glass compositions arranged for solo harp within a month of each other? That stretches even my imagination.
Floraleda Sacchi, on the Amadeus Arte label, offers her own arrangements of an hour of Glass. The booklet says “Since 2007 Floraleda Sacchi performs regularly Philip Glass’ works on Harp. She realized Glass’ music works perfectly on Harp and since then she became for many years the only harpist regularly performing worldwide his music…” Indeed, she’s previously recorded Metamorphosis for Decca. (Update: I have learned that my review copy shipped with the wrong booklet; the original has more information on Sacchi's close relationship with Glass' music.) Lavinia Meijer, on Channel Classics, arranged all her works herself too, and the booklet contains photos of Meijer looking over the music with none other than Philip Glass.
So! These are certainly the foremost harp proponents of Glass. On to the music itself. Who is the better advocate? Whose is the better album?
Both harpists present the opening to Glassworks (misprinted as Glasswork on Sacchi’s CD) and the five-movement suite Metamorphosis. Comparing the Glassworks opening, the differences are clear and stark: Sacchi is a more straightforward, motoric performer, who plays the music faster. Meijer has a poetry of touch, a softness and subtlety, which Sacchi can’t match. And the difference is accentuated by the even more dramatic contrast in sound quality. Meijer’s rather distantly miked, allowing her playing to feel like a blooming flower of muted colors. The microphones are placed probably about six inches from Sacchi’s instrument, though: you’re on top of it, and you can hear every single percussive click of strings against fingers. The feel is more analytical and less romantic, but the clicks and twangs form a constant counterpoint to the music itself. Meijer very rarely has this problem, being a performer of greater calm anyhow. If you don’t adjust the volume levels, Sacchi’s disc is about twice as loud.
In Metamorphosis, Sacchi is faster by five minutes because of significant differences in two movements. In the first, she’s simply much faster, which is positive and in fact represents a close adherence to the tempo markings, but the recording means the biting low chords are sapped of some strength. Plus, the other thing: although it’s hard to notice since this is Glass, Sacchi’s made some cuts to shorten the first and last movements. Some listeners may find this a plus.
I find Lavinia Meijer’s playing more trance-like and more meditative, better for reflection or for letting yourself be slowly folded into the music and its worlds. (If you don’t like Glass, Meijer is better for late-night listening!) The sound quality only helps her case, and her selections from the film score The Hours are mostly excellent, although a few of Glass’s tracks are less memorable. (On the other hand, the others are terrific.)
Floraleda Sacchi’s unique offerings are three takes on “Helen’s Tune” from The Candyman, which offer the exact same notes but in higher registers each time (because it's played on a number of instruments in the movie), the Modern Love Waltz (one of my least favorite Glass piano works, made much better by a fast tempo of the harpist's excellent choice), a tune from The Hours, and the very important Trilogy Sonata. This last, which combines music from Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten, is a truly incredible piano work bringing together choice extracts from some of Glass’s best work.
I’ll be returning to Sacchi’s album mostly for the Trilogy Sonata. For Philip Glass on harp, Lavinia Meijer is my first choice, and it’s probably one of my favorite Glass albums overall. But this is to some degree a matter of taste, both in how you like your sound quality and in whether you like Glass to bear echos of impressionistic calm (Meijer) or to be cleaned of such sentiment (Sacchi). Metamorphosis and Trilogy Sonata are the important works to have.
One more word on Ms. Sacchi’s album. She occasionally uses electronic dubbing effects in mostly unobtrusive ways, which she explains in her own booklet essay. If your copy doesn't ship with the booklet (mine didn't), you can download it here. I'm grateful to Ms. Sacchi for sending me the link for this updated review.
Two Philip Glass harp recitals in one month? What are the odds? Anyway, one of these is a clear winner interpretively and sonically.
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