Glass: Heroes Symphony; The Light

Glass: Heroes Symphony; The Light

by Marin Alsop
     
 

Philip Glass celebrates his 70th birthday in January 2007 -- yet another incongruous case of the young rebel becoming an elder statesman -- and this album's release kicks off the festivities. If Glass's music is typically associated with the hypnotic repetition of minimal material, listeners will find one work here that conforms to that stereotype alongside one that… See more details below

Overview

Philip Glass celebrates his 70th birthday in January 2007 -- yet another incongruous case of the young rebel becoming an elder statesman -- and this album's release kicks off the festivities. If Glass's music is typically associated with the hypnotic repetition of minimal material, listeners will find one work here that conforms to that stereotype alongside one that doesn't. The former is an orchestral tone poem called The Light from 1987; after a slow introduction, it builds to a pulsating groove that carries a handful of melodic motifs out nearly to infinity, the soothing harmonies quelling any restlessness that might arise. Far more varied is the Heroes Symphony (1996), the second (after 1993's Low Symphony) of Glass's reworkings of material from David Bowie and Brian Eno's "Berlin era" albums of the late 1970s. Repetition has a strong role here, too, as does rhythmic pulsation, but the Bowie/Eno themes add a new diversity to the sound and mood of the music; the enhanced expressiveness of this music seems, in retrospect, to point toward Glass's film scores of the following decade. Glass also uses the orchestra in a much more varied way in this six-movement work, foregrounding castanets and piccolo on "Abdulmajid," or alternating brass and woodwind solos of "Sons of the Silent Age." "Sense of Doubt" is striking for the moments of stillness amid the pulsation, while the final part, "V2 Schneider," is the most classically Glass-like in its rhythmic insistence. Minimalism has long been one forte of conductor Marin Alsop, who understands how to shape the repetitions into a satisfying structure, maintaining a rigorous tempo all the time, and the Bournemouth Symphony plays with a collective purity of tone that perfectly suits the streamlined efficiency of Glass's well-oiled musical machines.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
The "Heroes Symphony" of Philip Glass is one of two symphonies he wrote based on albums by David Bowie (the other is the "Low Symphony"). This recording by Marin Alsop, one of Britain's (and now America's) most talked-about conductors, suggests that the idea has been successful enough to move beyond the usual Glass orbit and into conventional symphonic repertory. Glass has always had a strong following among pop listeners, and part of the interest of these compositions lies in the unique crossover terrain they explore -- ironically, with Glass (whose versions are all instrumental) coming out as slightly more conventional than his pop counterparts. The Bowie album was recorded in the late '70s in Berlin with pop synthesizer experimenter Brian Eno. Glass fills out the songs with repeated musical figures, mostly assigned to the strings, replacing and expanding the guitar and keyboard riffs of the original songs. One can see why Bowie liked this music, which remains close to the harmonies of his original songs without seeming at all like an arrangement in the conventional sense. One can also see why the canny Marin Alsop might have wanted to record the work; she has been associated with several unusual crossover projects (including the "Too Hot to Handel Messiah"), and this one is unlike any other classical composition modeled on pop material. The Bournemouth Symphony achieves the hypnotic smoothness necessary for Glass throughout. The opening orchestral piece called "The Light" is a less distinctive Glass work, although rendered equally well. It refers to a famous scientific experiment having to do with light, but it would be surprising if any listener uncoached by notes succeeded in identifying which one.
BBC Music Magazine - Robert Maycock
Alsop provides a blend of warmth and energy that particularly suits Glass's lyric side and his constantly shifting rhythms.
Philadelphia Inquirer - David Patrick Stearns
Alsop's way into Glass is ingenious and original.
Baltimore Sun - Tim Smith
If you've always been resistant to - or dismissive of - Philip Glass, this vital performance just might help you see The Light.
Newark Star-Ledger - Bradley Bambarger
The music is attractive, the performance organic.

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Product Details

Release Date:
01/30/2007
Label:
Naxos American
UPC:
0636943932520
catalogNumber:
8559325
Rank:
247118

Tracks

  1. The Light, for orchestra  - Philip Glass  - Marin Alsop  -  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
  2. Symphony No.4 ("Heroes"), for orchestra  - Philip Glass  - Marin Alsop  -  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

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