Yesterday I saw Ivan Hewett's review of Philip Glass' new Violin Concerto No.2 "The American Four Seasons" in the Telegraph which went something like this:
Philip Glass’s new violin concerto, The American Four Seasons…was dignified and contained, even when the
launched into passionate flights of virtuosity…By any measure, much of the material was absolutely ordinary, even
yet Glass has a magical way of giving the merest twist to banality and
ordinariness, which makes it interesting – the mark of classic art
ages. As for the solo performance by Robert McDuffie , it was beyond
as cool, poised and heroically strong as a piece of Greek statuary.
And here is ANOTHER review today from the Telegraph's Michael White:
Listening to Philip Glass is about as rewarding as chewing gum
that’s lost its flavour, and they’re not dissimilar activites. But I
did go to the UK premiere of his new violin concerto, more to witness
its reception than anything else. And the reception, I’m sorry to say,
was rapturous: a standing ovation. Which proves that even if you can’t
fool all the people all the time, you can hoodwink a depressing number
for a fair while.
This new concerto is unmitigated trash: the usual strung out
sequences of arpeggiated banality, driven by the rise and fall of
fast-moving but still leaden triplets, and vacuously formulaic. Whatever
gives Glass cause to think he can get away with it I can’t imagine
(well, perhaps I can: those damned standing ovations). But in this case
the offence is the worse for the portentous title he’s appended.
He calls it ‘The American Four Seasons’ – with, you’ll note, the
definite article: not just ‘a’ but ‘the’. In truth, there are some
correspondences of texture, mood and structure that support the title.
To a point. But Philip Glass is no Vivaldi, a composer who even at his
most wallpaper baroque still has something to say. Glass has nothing –
though he presumably deludes himself into thinking he does: hence the
preponderance of slow, reflective solo writing in the piece which
assumes there’s something to reflect on.
An American violinist called Robert McDuffie played the solos with
all the dignity he could muster (he’s tall, plays in a business suit,
looks like a senior vice president at Goldman Sachs: it helps) but you
couldn’t attribute any distinction to what he did. The tone was scrawny,
Marin Alsop conducted the LPO who had co-commissioned the piece. The
only question on my mind as I left the hall was: Why?