Anton Batagov

Philip Glass: The Hours; Distant Figure

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The soundtrack for the film The Hours (2002), with its all-star cast including Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, has been one of Philip Glass' most popular works, with a BAFTA award in Britain having been a key step in spreading Glass' reputation beyond the U.S. Perhaps the task of writing specifically representational music helps him hone his style (see also his big operas of the 1970s and '80s). The music has also had a second life in Michael Riesman and Nico Muhly's piano version; in Muhly's case, you might argue for a degree of influence. Although Glass often performs his own piano music, he is a composer who is decidedly not the best interpreter of his own work. Consider the readings here by Russian pianist Anton Batagov, who has had a varied career, including a Tchaikovsky Competition win, and who has somehow connected with Glass' Orange Mountain Music label. The label's engineers do their usual fine work, and they bring out the degree to which Glass' music is genuinely polyphonic if given a good, detailed reading like the one here, and relies so strongly on the register to convey his music. Batagov brings out the inner lines nicely, and each one carries emotional weight. Sample "Why Does Someone Have to Die?" and then check out the closing work, Distant Figure, passacaglia for solo piano, which really is a Wall of Sound: the pairing is inspired: it delineates how Glass' music is generally not that. A strong Glass release from a new artist in the Orange Mountain Music stable.

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