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Philip GLASS (b. 1937)
Phaedra: The Non-Mishima Music (1984)
Modern Love Waltz (1977) with 21 Robert Moran Orchestrations (1977-2010)
Paul Hersey (piano), Glenn Freeman (percussion), GR Winds, David Toub (synthesizers), David Hall (marimba), Rangzen Quartet, Paul Vondiziano (guitar), GVSU Percussion Ensemble (percussion), Christina Fong (violin), Karen Krummel (cello), Christopher Martin (viola), Elizabeth Colpean (harp)
rec. no details supplied
Detailed Contents List at end of review
OGREOGRESS PRODUCTIONS 885767164819 DVD-Audio [114:50]

The music of Philip Glass can be captivating to some people and at the same time infuriating to others. I am in the group who enjoy his music, having examples of all the genres in which he has composed. That said, apart from the piano piece I have not come across the music presented on this disc before.

Phaedra was a commission from The Dallas Ballet. It was devised and choreographed by Flemming Flindt and received its premiere on 18 February 1986 at the Dallas Majestic Theatre. Even before that Glass had taken much of the music from the ballet and incorporated it into the score of the 1985 film Mishima by Paul Schrader, some of which made it into his String Quartet No. 3. The remaining five sections, not utilised in the film score, are recorded here for the first time. They are variously scored for string trio, percussion and guitar and quite effective they are too. They will delight any aficionado of Glass's music. This is the Glass of Glassworks, a work which had only been composed a couple of years before the ballet. Full of variety and excitement, it makes me want to hear the ballet in its entirety.

Originally composed in 1977 for Constance DeJong's performance of her novel Modern Love which took place the following year, this piano miniature is made up of repeated phrases. This has been recorded on a number of occasions; this is the longest recording I know. The piece was then offered to Robert Moran as part of his 'Waltz Project', a collection of short piano pieces by 25 composers. The performance here compares well with those of Jeroen van Veen on Brilliant and Jeremy Limb on Quartz, with Limb's performance being just too quick.

When offered the piece for his 'Waltz Project', Robert Moran, who is a composer in his own right with many compositions in most genres to his name, was the director of the Northwestern University's New Music Ensemble. He asked Glass if he could orchestrate the piece and the composer agreed as long as the fragment was repeated an equal number of times. I think the term 'arrangements' suits the pieces better than 'orchestrations', with each taking the same number of repeated fragments of the original piano work. Each of the 21 orchestrations are exactly the same length with the fragments overlaid with various instrumental ensembles. The full list is set out below. The series begins with a simple version for piano and two drummers. The sequence works its way through various incarnations, the version for piano and 11 winds being quite attractive. Finally you get to the last and most demanding version for piano, six strings, eight keyboards, ten percussionists and eleven winds. These pieces are mesmerising, although I can imagine some people would find them monotonous. I have listened to them complete a few times now and they have not lost their interest. The idea of sitting down and listening to, what is ostensibly the same piece for 22 times and over an hour and a half might tax even the most die-hard of Glass fan. It is for this reason that people new to Glass might want to work up to this piece with other examples of his music, maybe Glassworks or Music with Changing Parts. However the result is both rewarding and exhilarating.

The performances throughout this single DVD Audio disc are excellent and they are captured in crystal clear sound. To listen to it you either have to play it through your DVD or Blu-ray player. You then listen either through your TV or your sound system if it is connected to the DVD. In fact it also sounds pretty good played through the computer.

The presentation of the disc leaves a lot to be desired however. It arrives in a flimsy black plastic slim-line box, similar to a CD size DVD box, with what looks like a badly photocopied cover. It was only when I looked for the disc on-line that I realised that it depicted half of Philip Glass's face. The notes are very meagre to say the least and no recording information is provided. The company name only appears in tiny letters on the disc itself with no disc number - the number above being a barcode number. That said, none of the above detracts from the quality of the music on this disc.

Stuart Sillitoe

Detailed Contents List

1. Phaedra: Scene 2 for string trio [5:21]
2. Phaedra: Scene 4 for percussion and string trio [4:25]
3. Phaedra: Scene 6 for guitar and string trio [1:05]
4. Phaedra: Scene 14 for guitar and string trio [5:05]
5. Phaedra: Scene 15a for percussion [4:47]
6. Modern Love Waltz for piano [5:21]
7. Modern Love Waltz for piano and 2 drummers [4:25]
8. Modern Love Waltz for piano and 3 marimbas [4:25]
9. Modern Love Waltz for piano and 5 vibraphones [4:25]
10. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 2 drummers and 3 marimbas [4:25]
11. Modern Love Waltz for piano and 6 strings [4:25]
12. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 2 drummers and 5 vibraphones [4:25]
13. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 3 marimbas and 5 vibraphones [4:25]
14. Modern Love Waltz for piano and 8 keyboards [4:25]
15. Modern Love Waltz for piano and 10 percussionists [4:25]
16. Modern Love Waltz for piano and 11 winds [4:25]
17. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 6 strings and 8 keyboards [4:25]
18. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 6 strings and 10 percussionists [4:25]
19. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 6 strings and 11 winds [4:25]
20. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 8 keyboards and 10 percussionists [4:25]
21. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 8 keyboards and 11 winds [4:25]
22. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 10 percussionists and 11 winds [4:25]
23. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 6 strings, 8 keyboards and 10 percussionists [4:25]
24. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 6 strings, 8 keyboards and 11 winds [4:25]
25. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 6 strings, 10 percussionists and 11 winds [4:25]
26. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 8 keyboards, 10 percussionists and 11 winds [4:25]
27. Modern Love Waltz for piano, 6 strings, 8 keyboards, 10 percussionists and 11 winds [4:25]