Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass

Brooklyn Rider

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Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass Review

by Stephen Eddins

The estimable ensemble Brooklyn Rider turns its gifts to six string quartets by Philip Glass, his complete works in this genre as of 2011. There are five numbered quartets, plus a suite from his score for the 1997 film Bent, recorded here for the first time. Two of the other quartets also have dramatic roots: No. 2, derived from incidental music for production of Samuel Beckett's "Company," and No. 3, taken from the score for the 1984 film Mishima. The Suite from Bent is the weakest piece, made up largely of the kinds of gestures that became the clich├ęs for which Glass has been criticized: relentlessly active arpeggios, the rocking back and forth between two chords, and monochromatic orchestration. The First Quartet could be a jolt for some of Glass' fans. Written in 1966 while he was studying in Paris, there's strong foreshadowing of the repetitive minimalist structures that Glass would develop over the next few years, but it has a level of dissonance and stridency not usually associated with the composer. Taken on its own terms, it's an intriguing, often compelling work. The remaining quartets, numbers two through five, contain some of the composer's most thoughtful and imaginative writing. They are varied in their textures, colors, and gestures and constitute a serious contribution to the contemporary chamber music repertoire. The members of Brooklyn Rider play with absolute professionalism and conviction, and the tone is warmly blended. The sound is clean and vibrant.

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