Dennis Russell Davies / Bruckner Orchester Linz

Philip Glass: Symphony No. 10

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The general line on Philip Glass' later music is that he modified the strict minimalism of his earlier compositions in the direction of traditional tonality. This is true enough as far as it goes, but with many pieces it's necessary to understand something more specific in order to get their appeal: Glass over the years has perfected a repertoire of devices that suggest rather than imitate rhetorical devices of Romantic orchestral music of various kinds. This has contributed in large part to his continuing popularity, and it's well exemplified by this recording of the Symphony No. 10, conducted by Glass' champion Dennis Russell Davies, played with suitable energy by the Bruckner Orchester Linz, and nicely recorded as usual by Glass' Orange Mountain Music engineers in Austria. The symphony started life as a work (the last one, apparently) written for the composer's own ensemble, to be performed at a fireworks display in Zaragoza, Spain, in 2008; it was later orchestrated. Its five movements thus have propulsive quality in common with various festive works of the 19th century, and it's capped at the end by a 2012 Concert Overture in the same vein. It's a great deal of fun, but Glass is really not writing neo-Romantic music: the structures have the same rigor they ever did, but are simply ornamented with things that sound familiar. With the big, upbeat quality of the music, this is a good place to start with late Glass.

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