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Philip GLASS (b. 1937)
Glass Hour
The Hours Suite (For Solo Violin and String Orchestra) (arr. Harrington) [17.36]
Violin Concerto No.2 “The American Four Seasons” [45.19]
Gregory Harrington (violin)
The Janacek Philharmonic/Marc Shapiro
rec. City of Ostrava Cultural Centre, Czech Republic, n.d.

There is limited information on this recording. My review is based on a promo CD, which gives lacks a catalogue number. As far as I can tell, the recording is available only as a download, from usual suppliers, and at a modest price. The Estile label was founded by Gregory Harrington in 2006, and lists around half-a-dozen recordings by him. Several have been enthusiastically reviewed, and there is no reason to make an exception here. The Irish-born, New York-based Harrington is not merely an accomplished violinist, but has something distinctive to communicate.

The Hours, starring Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, was highly acclaimed on release in 2002. Not least of its attractions was the score by Philip Glass. Originally scored for piano, string quartet and orchestra, it has been justly popular both for its own virtues, more romantic that astringent. The Suite recorded here is different from other approaches. Michael Reisen created a three-movement suite for piano, strings, harp and celeste, first performed in 2003 this suite lasts for around half an hour. Harrington’s suite is notably briefer: it is a fairly straightforward transcription of the pieces from the soundtrack, Morning Passages, The Poet Acts, and The Hours. The first two movements are a reversal of the soundtrack order. Together they make a very satisfactory piece, logically connected, and here most attractively presented.

Originally performed in 2013, with Gidon Kremer as soloist, Violin Concerto No 2, “The Four American Seasons”, has an unusual structure. There are no cadenzas, but each of the four movements is preceded by a solo piece, a prelude and 3 ‘songs’, each no longer than four minutes. Glass permits these to be performed together as a separate work. To add to the unusual, Glass gives no indication as to which season is represented in each of the four main movements, leading the listener to decide. This has the advantage of letting the listener enjoy the work as pure music. On his website, Harrington claims that his interpretation is a little more romantic than those on previous recordings. He notes also that for him, the lengthy second movement stands for Winter. The performances here are evidently thoughtfully prepared and very enjoyable.

I have great affection for the music of Glass, and this new recording is one to be valued, not least as demonstrates that there is much more to him than the creator (in common caricature) of repetitious chugging music. Here is both poetry and substance, and I think the concerto one of his finest pieces. I shall return to this recording very often.

Michael Wilkinson

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