Michael Riesman / Mark Atkins

Philip Glass: Voices for Didgeridoo and Organ; Organ Suite

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The origins of Philip Glass' Voices, for didgeridoo and organ was specific: a commission from the city of Melbourne, Australia, in 2001. Yet the instrumental combination works so well that it seems almost foreordained, and Glass went on to write further music for the soloist here, Mark Atkins. In this performance, the didgeridoo and organ tracks were recorded separately, in Australia and upstate New York, respectively, and in Glass' metronomic world this works well enough. Yet one hopes that this release on Glass' Orange Mountain Music label is enough to spur future live performances with both players in the same room. The addition of the didgeridoo to the relatively homogeneous texture of Glass' organ writing is dramatic, but it doesn't disturb the basic shifting fields of the composer's music. It just deepens their color and variety in an immensely attractive way. The blended sound environment of this release has nothing objectionable, but hearing the didgeridoo-organ combination will make you want to hear Voices in a place that really adds something to the work. It's compelling here, and it has the chance to be breathtaking; at the very least it's unlike anything you've heard from Glass before, and the composer had the sense to rein in the more variegated qualities of his recent music and to revel in the simple, striking pairing. The Organ Suite at the end of the album, designated as being composed by organist Michael Riesman, is actually a set of organ arrangements of a group of well-known Glass pieces; it's nowhere near the level of Voices, but it makes a reasonable postlude. Highly recommended for Glass fans.

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