This elegantly packaged 10 disc retrospective surveys four decades of work by Philip Glass, from his earliest solo pieces to his world-renowned operas to his Oscar-nominated film scores. In music, words and pictures, it traces the evolution, as critic Tim Page puts it in his liner notes essay, of 'the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music-simultaneously.' The long-awaited release of this set follows this past spring's triumphal new staging of Glass's 1980 Satyagraha at the Metropolitan Opera House…
"Music in 12 Parts would most likely be classified as a minimal work, it was a breakthrough for me and contains many of the structural and harmonic ideas that would be fleshed out in my later works. It is a modular work, one of the first such compositions, with twelve distinct parts which can be performed separately in one long sequence, or in any combination or variation."
Fans of Bang on a Can and Philip Glass may grab "5ths" impulsively, but all others should approach this disc with caution. Music in Fifths and Two Pages may be classic Glass works, from 1969 and 1968, respectively, and their place in the development of his style of minimalist music is undeniable. However, Music in Fifths is austere and edgy, and the emphasis on tight ensemble playing in parallel fifths puts a premium on the group's physical stamina. But the music is relentless and tiring after the first few minutes. The rapid, repetitive melody in organum voicing changes slightly over the course of 24 minutes, but only the most persevering listener will be able to detect the subtle rhythmic shifting. Two Pages may offer a change of color and texture, but the relief is brief indeed, for this piece runs on its narrow pitch material for 27 minutes, without significant changes other than the shortening or elongation of cycles. These pieces are among Glass' most severe works, and come well before the comparatively lush pattern pieces of the late '70s and the neo-Romantic scores of the 1980s.
On 30 June 1999, the ensemble Alter Ego performed a concert of works by Philip Glass at the Opera Paese Gallery in Rome, one of the most innovative musical venues in the city and where Alter Ego has played regularly since 1996. Glass himself was present at this performance which was a replica of his own famous debut concert at the New York Film-Makers Cinemateque in September 1968. Under the guidance of Pietro Fortuna, the artists of the Opera Paese Gallery faithfully reconstructed the geometric installations which Glass had originally called for at that first performance. And over thirty years later, the audience in Rome gave the concert the same positive, enthusiastic reception it had enjoyed in New York — to the extent that Glass himself was suprised, as indeed he was by the modernity and abstract nature of several of his early compositions which he had neither played nor heard since that time.
The works in this programme demonstrate Philip Glass’s perpetual goal of connecting with his audience. Taking shape as something like a hidden sonata form, Mad Rush contrasts peaceful atmosphere with tempestuousness and mesmerizing beauty. The last of its kind in Glass’s oeuvre, 600 Lines, here receiving its première recording on solo piano, is an obsessive and hypnotically restless toccata that represents the zenith of his experiences while working with Ravi Shankar. These two monumental works are joined by première recordings of the subtly transformed Metamorphosis 2, and Glass’s only transcription in the form of Paul Simon’s The Sound of Silence.
The third in the Glass’ trilogy of operas about men who changed the world in which they lived through the power of their ideas, “Akhnaten”‘s subject is religion. The Pharaoh Akhnaten was the first monotheist in recorded story, and his substitution of a one-god religion for the multi-god worship in use when he came to power was responsible for his violent overthrow. The opera describes the rise, reign, and fall of Akhnaten in a series of tableaus. Libretto (Egyptian, Arcadian, Hebrew, and language of the audience) by the composer in association with Shalom Goldman, Robert Israel and Richard Riddell. Vocal text drawn from original sources by Shalom Goldman.
A uniquely intimate portrait of the music icon, Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts explores the contemporary composer's creative process in opera, concert, and film, interwoven with candid scenes of his personal and spiritual life. In July 2005, filmmaker Scott Hicks started shooting a documentary about the composer Philip Glass to celebrate his 70th birthday in 2007. Over the next 18 months, he followed Glass across three continents, from his annual ride on the Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster, to the world premiere of his new opera in Germany, to a performance with a didgeridoo virtuoso in Australia.
Philip Glass is one of the most familiar names in contemporary music today. He is also one of the most successful and widely-performed living composers and his output ranges from instrumental works and large-scale operas and theater pieces to film music and collaborations with rock musicians. Glass was born in Baltimore in 1937 to Jewish immigrant parents and his early musical education began with violin lessons at the age of six and at the age of eight he was accepted at the Peabody Institute (the youngest student ever accepted at that august institution). Studies there included his by now preferred instrument, the flute, and by the time he reached his teens he began composing.
To fully appreciate the sheer, unbridled audacity of these four early works by Philip Glass, it is helpful, for a moment, to imagine that it's 1969 and you've never heard any of the composer's music before. Indeed, in 1969, it would have been unlikely that you'd heard anything like this before.