Dennis Russell Davies

Philip Glass: Kepler

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This recording of Philip Glass' opera Kepler comes from the world-premiere production at the Landestheater Linz in 2009. Veteran Glass associate Dennis Russell Davies leads soloists and the chorus of the theater and the Bruckner Orchester Linz in the performance. Kepler, a treatment of the life and thought of the 17th century German astronomer, returns to the epic themes of the trio of great biographical operas that initiated Glass' career as an opera composer, Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten, and the libretto in German and Latin by Martina Winkel has some echoes of the non-linear aspect of those works. The music reflects more recent developments in the composer's style, particularly a use of denser, thicker orchestral textures, more like those of The Voyage, which Davies recorded with the Linz forces after its 2002 European premiere. The music doesn't break any new ground (except for perhaps the increased prominence Glass gives to the large percussion section) and lacks the variety that made works like Einstein and Satyagraha so striking. Particularly in the first of the two acts, the music has a relentlessly anguished, roiling quality. The second act is more musically successful, with greater textural and tonal variety. For the most part, the higher voices, among both the soloists and the chorus, sound taxed and strained by Glass' demands for so much singing in the upper register. In the title role, baritone Martin Achrainer sings with warmth and security, and gives focus to a production that is not otherwise especially vocally gratifying. Kepler may not rank among Glass' most memorable operas, which include his first three and later works like La Belle et la Bête and Orphée, but it should be of interest to the composer's fans, and it's always valuable to have a recording of a major composer's large-scale works.

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