Trust me, I didn't live in New York for a very long time and sort of got tired of hearing about all the Glass events there, so I'm sympathetic to not having access to good Glass concerts. In fact, being from Boston, the only Glass I ever got was when the composer himself came to town. I saw Dracula with Kronos at the Orpheum, Koyaaniqatsi there as well, and The Screens at Harvard. Alas, I don't think the composer has performed there since maybe 2003. More generally, I don't recall the last time Glass' music was played in Boston.
Today there was an announcement that the Big Sur Brooklyn concert this weekend has been altered. Glass was to perform in Williamsburg Brooklyn with Van Dyke Parks. Due to a hand injury Parks will not be able to perform but the show is going on in the "Philip Glass & Friends" format. Those desiring a refund can do that.
But otherwise if you find yourself in New York this weekend, head over to NYC Ballet and check out the ever enduring Glass Pieces. Great show.
People seem to marvel at Philip Glass' prolificacy. A couple of years ago I was privy to see a draft biography for Glass for a prominent Dictionary of music which included mention of his "suspicious" output and that it was well known that he employs a team of young composers variously composing and arranging his music for him. The whole thing was libelous. Nothing could be further from the truth and this type of thing usually springs from either jealous colleagues or ill-informed journalists who simply don't like his music.
In any case, witnessing Glass working and delivering manuscript pages day in and day out is a testament to how much one can accomplish over a lifetime, piece by piece. Furthermore, Glass isn't nearly as prolific as say a Mozart or Schubert or Hovhaness or Brian to cite 20th century examples. To put a fine point on it, every Glass piece that anyone has ever heard was hand composed, arranged, and orchestrated by Philip Glass himself. It is the product of pencil, paper, hard work, and imagination. Any exceptions, like Michael Riesman or Paul Barnes transcribing or arranging Glass' music for solo piano, are credited as such.
There's also an element of the hand-made in the Glass process. Honegger used to equate writing music, in the age before synthesiezers, to ship-building. One didn't know before plopping the ship into the water whether it would capsize or sink. Such it was with composition: a composer couldn't really know what a piece sounded like before hearing it played. Up to the point of the first rehearsal the piece only existed in his mind's ear. This is still Glass' process.
Writing music by hand on paper is almost a totally lost art. It's totally understandable why no one does it anymore. It's like writing a book long-hand. The biggest difference is that when one writes by hand, there's a commitment to the ideas before you write it down for no other reason that it takes so long to copy a page of music by hand. When writing with a computer, a whole piece can be transposed into a different key with the click of a mouse. Such things are impossible the way the old composers used to do it. Glass writes usually two drafts before a "Fair Copy" finished score. Imagine how long it takes to copy an opera of 200 pages fully orchestrated length.
So it's a lot of work but one is constantly working the "inner ear" and coming up with good ideas before writing them down. The "hand-made" quality of the music comes through.
With that said, Glass' constant stream of productivity is also the product of timing. Often times the pieces that are premiering were written long before. Symphony No.9, for example was written almost a full year before its premiere. The composer had two big opera commissions looming (The Perfect American, The Lost), premiering in 2013 and so almost the entirety of 2012 was spent on those. And in fact, The Lost (which premiered last month), was composed before The Perfect American which premiered in January.
This is all about process and time management. With all that said, sometimes things are premiered soon after the composition. This is the case with a new piece TWO MOVEMENTS FOR FOUR PIANOS which will have its premiere next month in Ruhr. The Piano Festival Ruhr was the commisisoner and site of the premiere of FOUR MOVEMENTS FOR TWO PIANOS five years ago. When one thinks about the timing, that means this is the first piece to be written by Glass since The Perfect American which premiered back in January, the composition of which finished probably a couple of months before that.
I wrote recently about Glass' imminent Southern California invasion, however this month he goes to the independent republic of Northern California bringing Koyaanisqatsi and La Belle et La Bete to town. San Francisco is an interesting musical place. Glass' music is routinely performed there. Recently Nicole Paiement and Ensemble Parallele has championed Glass' works -notably Orphée and the Harpsichord Concerto. SF Opera commissioned Glass in 2007 to compose the large-scale Appomattox and for years a small opera company in Oakland presented all sorts of the smaller Glass theater works and chamber operas.
When Glass brings his own ensemble to town it's invariably sold out. The irony here is that the PGE frequently performs in Davies Symphony Hall, home of the San Francisco Symphony where Glass' ten symphonies and thirteen concertos have never been performed. This is especially bizarre considering the SFS has a series called American Mavericks.
But much to the chagrin of the symphony crowd the interest in the music persists and remains intense. The only part of Glass' catalogue that hasn't infiltrated the establishment at this point is the symphony societies in America. That crowd usually chalks up sold out Glass events in their own halls to it being like the hall were being rented out to a rock concert type of thing.
Moving into June, Glass will make a rare appearance in the Hamptons performing a benfit for the Ille Art Gallery to a very special small audience on June 8. It's a rare chance to hear Glass perform solo piano in such an intimate setting and it's for a good cause.
Yesterday, Celebrate Brooklyn announced that its season would include a performance of Dracula at the Prospect Park Bandshell with the Philip Glass Ensemble. Glass, Riesman, and Kronos Quartet tried this once before about five years ago and about 15 minutes into the show, whilst in Transylvania, the skies over Brooklyn darkened, winds howled, and lightning menaced the public to the point where they had to call the show with no rain-date scheduled, this time around is take two. Up until they called off the show, the crowd seemed to enjoy the extra ambience. I hope it all goes well this time around.
The BBC covers the opening of the Linz Opera House and Glass' latest opera THE LOST.
Listen to the last movement of THE HOURS suite on Canada's espace musique which is featuring the new OMM recording of the work.
The Los Angeles Times reports on upcoming Glass events.
This many Glass performances in Southern California is an interesting development for a number of reasons. Until the Long Beach Opera performance of a reduced version of Akhnaten three years ago, there had never been a Philip Glass opera produced in Southern California. Combine this with the ongoing snubbing of Glass' concert works by orchestras, and one had to wait for Glass to visit locally with his ensemble or on piano. Even then, Glass didn't make his Hollywood Bowl debut until 2009 with Koyaanisqatsi and the LA Philharmonic.
It seems the floodgates have opened. The Pacific Symphony commissioned, performed, and recorded The Passion of Ramakrishna, Robert McDuffie performed the second violin concerto with the San Diego Symphony and at Disney Hall and Orange County, the Long Beach Opera recently did The Fall of the House of Usher, the LA Philharmonic did Powaqqatsi at the Bowl in 2011 and commissioned the Ninth Symphony and did the West Coast premiere of that piece and will do a concert version of the Civil Wars next season. LA Opera will be presenting Einstein on the Beach and as you can see from the LA Times, there's plenty of other Glass events in the pipeline in SoCal.
Here is a photo of Linda Brumbach (left) accepting the award for Einstein on the Beach from the Olivier Awards. Linda is director and founder of Pomegranate Arts, the production company and tour management of Einstein on the Beach and Philip Glass. Linda's role in the remounting of Einstein cannot be understated. She has been the ground up producer on many live Glass events such as Orion and Book of Longing and has been bringing shows like The Screens, Dance, Philip Glass Solo Piano, Dracula, the Qatsi Trilogy live to film and many others to your neighborhoods for many years. But the sheer size, scale of Einstein and effort it took to get the opera back on the stage was amazing and we are all indebted to her for her work.
Under the radar this past weekend were a couple performances of Glass' recent multimedia works. ICARUS: At the Edge of Time was performed at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia by the city's Youth Orchestra as part of the Philadelphia Science Festival. The piece will next be seen at the Seattle Science Festival with Brian Greene in attendence on June 6. Glass' other work of the kind (based on previously existing Glass music variously arranged for orchestra by Michael Riesman) was presented this past weekend with the Hartford Symphony under Carolyn Kuan.
AND THE WINNER IS: Einstein on the Beach was named (?) Best New Opera (double ??) by the Olivier Awards. The four-decade old opera was recognized after its recent London performances. It continues its perpetual tour, relatively speaking, having recently been presented in Hong Kong, next going to Melbourne Australia in July/August, and then Los Angeles in October.
THE BIG SUR BROOKLYN will host Philip Glass in the epicenter of hipster central, Williamsburg Brooklyn, in a performance celebrating the Henry Miller Library, one of the venues Glass at which has performed as part of his Days & Nights Festival.
Marin Alsop and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra will perform the US premiere of Philip Glass' Symphony No.10 on August 10 as was announced on the Festival's website yesterday. Further news about Symphony No.10 is forthcoming...
The BBC Proms have announced the UK Premiere of Glass' latest symphony on July 31, the Aurora Orchestra will perfom the week on a program with a work by Zappa and Nancarrow.
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