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Philip GLASS (b. 1938)
Glassworlds – Volume 5: Enlightenment
Mad Rush (1979) [21:48]
Metamorphosis Two [7:08]
600 Lines (1967) [40:37]
Paul SIMON (b. 1941)
The Sound of Silence (transcr. Philip Glass, 2007) [3:24]
Nicolas Horvath (piano)
Premieres except Mad Rush
rec. March 2014, Temple Saint Marcel, Paris
GRAND PIANO GP745 [72:57]

I encountered this series for the first time with the previous volume, attracted by the piano version of the soundtrack of The Hours (review). Having enjoyed that, it was logical to ask for this new release to review. That the two major works were relatively early ones made me somewhat reticent, because it is Glass of The Hours that most appeals to me, the early hard-core minimalism less so.

As it eventuated, I was right to be wary but only in respect of one of the two early works. Unfortunately it is the one - 600 Lines - that occupies more than half the running time. It is described as an “obsessive and hypnotically restless toccata” which does give some sense of it. It came at the end of Glass’s studies with Ravi Shankar and is constructed from five pitches, which very slowly mutate. It may be of interest in terms of what can be done with such limited resources but it is certainly doesn’t make for easy listening. If I had been playing this as an LP, I would have concluded that the stylus had become stuck but even so I checked that the CD timer was progressing. Lest I be accused of being simply intolerant of this type of work, I enjoy greatly the 160 minutes of Simeon ten Holt’s Canto Ostinato, with which it has much in common.

Mad Rush is described as one of Glass’s “keystone works”, showing the direction that his music would take. Certainly, it is very clear to see where The Hours music comes from. Yes, there is repetition but there is also progression, melody and warmth; all things which distinguish it from 600 Lines.

Metamorphosis I-V were included in Volume 3, and the work here is described as a further evolution, one that is very subtle. I have to admit that the differences are hard to spot. Though nowhere in the notes for either volume is it suggested that Metamorphosis II (or Two) share music with The Hours, they surely do.

Finally, we have what is believed to the only arrangement of another’s music that Glass has made. It is fascinating to hear the much-loved Simon melody thrive under the Glass treatment. I felt disappointed when it finished so soon.

Nicolas Horvath plays this music wonderfully well: warm and expressive or cold and mechanical as required. His notes are again excellent, and the Fazoli piano sounds glorious.

If you appreciate all of Glass’s styles, then this will provide great satisfaction. If like me, your tastes run to the more melodious end of the spectrum, ignoring forty minutes of the recording does make it harder to justify.

David Barker

 




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