Dublin Guitar Quartet

The Dublin Guitar Quartet Performs Philip Glass

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The compositions of Philip Glass have rarely been transcribed to new instrumental settings, partly because Glass has presented his music both as a compositional and a performance-and-marketing entity, and thus controlled its distribution. There's no obstacle to performing them in new instrumental combinations, however, for they contain little in the way of orchestrational subtlety or especially idiomatic instrumental writing. This album, released on the composer's own Orange Mountain Music label, shows something of what's possible. The Dublin Guitar Quartet (from Ireland, not California) performs four of Glass' string quartets from the middle of the range of his six (at this writing). The guitar sound has a slightly different relationship to the original in each case. In the second and fourth quartets, which make up the first half of the program, the guitars actually sharpen the edge of the music, revealing details of phrasing that with strings would be lost in the wall of Glassian lyricism. In the String Quartet No. 3, which contains a good deal of writing originally for guitar (the quartet is an adaptation of the Mishima film score), the music seems more native to the guitar quartet. And in the String Quartet No. 5, a piece in Glass' monumental mode with plucked passages and big bowed string chords, the guitars are actually restraining the music into more precise boundaries. Best of all is the sound, which ought to be taught in engineering courses as an example of how to record acoustic guitars: the instruments emerge in a great variety of colors, with a minimum of extraneous noise. It's the next-best thing to being there, or maybe even better than being there, and the album as a whole represents a new stage in thinking about the music of Glass.

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