Bruckner Orchester Linz / Dennis Russell Davies

Philip Glass: Symphony No. 7 "Toltec"

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Philip Glass wrote his Seventh Symphony, "Toltec," in 2008, in response to a request for a piece to honor Leonard Slatkin. Glass was inspired by the work of Mexican writer Victor Sanchez exploring the culture of the Toltecs, one of the most significant pre-Hispanic civilizations of Middle America. Glass' three-movement, 35-minute score has an elemental feel, and in some ways resembles the sections of Koyaanisqatsi that dealt with Native American traditions. The program behind each of the movements concerns the inescapable link between nature and human stewardship of it, a recurring theme in Glass' work. The first movement is purely instrumental, the second makes significant use of a wordless chorus, and the third uses a chorus at its conclusion. The first movement is especially effective in the variety of motivic material Glass brings in, and in its tonal and textural contrasts. The most memorable movement is the second, which has a propulsive rhythmic momentum, and where the use of the chorus adds an insistent urgency. The final movement is generally slower and more contemplative, and while it builds to a large climax, the lack of diversity in its musical material keeps it from having the kind of visceral power Glass probably had in mind. Dennis Russell Davies, a longtime advocate of Glass' music, leads the Bruckner Orchester Linz and the Linz Opera Chorus in a precise and committed reading of the score, but the impact of the whole is diminished by the anticlimactic third movement, which doesn't have the passion that characterizes Glass at his best. The sound is clean and present, with good balance.

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