From the Philip Glass Recording Archive, Vol. 2: Orchestral Music

Dennis Russell Davies / ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra / Relache Ensemble

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From the Philip Glass Recording Archive, Vol. 2: Orchestral Music Review

by Stephen Eddins

The piece that Days and Nights in Rochinha resembles most closely, in structure if not in mood, is Boléro. It's not surprising that a piece by Philip Glass would be compared to the work whose repetitiveness has caused it to be frequently described as a precursor to minimalism, but the comparison is more apt here than with most of Glass' works. He takes a memorable, expansive melody with a Latin rhythmic vitality and flavor and spins it out over a long time span, in this case 23 minutes. Glass' piece rises to less of a frenzied climax than Boléro; the arc of its intensity is more gently contoured. Its steady (but metrically complex) rhythm at a relaxed tempo, combined with languid, lyrical melodic material and lush harmonies, make it a serene and lulling piece that feels not a moment too long. It should have strong appeal for the listener who savors sustained, meditative music and doesn't demand a high level of complexity or dramatic musical development. Glass veteran Dennis Russell Davies leads the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in a radiant performance.

Persephone, based on the Greek myth, was written for a production by Robert Wilson. Scored for orchestra and an almost omnipresent chorus, the piece has the variety and involved development to give it an impact opposite that of Days and Nights and Rochinha. Its sound is more typically Glassian, closely related to harmonic and figural language of La belle et la bête, written around the same time. Relâche Ensemble, directed by Joseph Franklin, plays and sings with beautifully focused tone and attention to the score's nuances. These pieces are among Glass' most attractive and successful orchestral works and deserve to be more widely performed.

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