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This Weekend Glass’s Magnum Opus Symphony No.5 at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC

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This weekend, the Washington Chorus presents a rare performance of Glass’s massive Millennium Choral Symphony at the Kennedy Center conducted by Julian Wachner.  Listen here to Wachner discuss the symphony on Classical WETA as part of Wachner’s final season with the Washington Chorus.

When I say this is a rare performance, this is only the 16th performance on record since its premiere at the Salzburg Festival in 1999 despite it being hailed at its first performance by the Los Angeles Times as a “glorious, inspired work.”  Ironically not the DC premiere as Dante Anzolini led performance at the Kennedy Center 15 years ago.

Why are performances so rare when so much of the rest of Glass’s work is so commonly performed?:  Size, scale.  To put it simply Symphony No.5 is huge: at 100 minutes long requiring huge forces including full symphony orchestra, SATB chorus, children’s chorus, and five soloists it has proven too big and too expensive to produce for orchestras who opt for Mahler 2,8 or Beethoven’s 9th when they go to such expense.

The Washington Chorus is hosting an “Inside the Score” event at a church in DC tonight.  I will be traveling to DC myself to attend almost exactly one year after Appomattox had its glorious full premiere at the Washington National Opera. -RG

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