The Orphée Suite for Piano
Music by Philip Glass
Paul Barnes, piano


Orange Mountain Music OMM-0008


1. I. The Cafe 4:31
2. II. Orphée’s Bedroom 1:39
3. III. Journey to the Underworld 3:28
4. IV. Orphée and the Princess 4:37
5. V. Return to Orphée’s House 2:46
6. VI. Orphée’s Return 7:47
7. VII. Orphée’s Bedroom-Reprise 3:28
8. I. Knee Play No. 4 from Einstein on the Beach 6:10
9. II. Act III Conclusion from Satyagraha 7:24
10. III. Dance from Act II Scene III of Akhnaten 5:11
11. Epilogue from Monsters of Grace 3:28


As with so many of life’s most significant encounters, I met Philip Glass purely by accident in 1995 on a plane flying out of Lincoln Nebraska after a grueling job interview at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Music. That plane trip marked the beginning of an artistic collaboration the fruit of which is represented on this recording. Glass introduced me to a transcription of Satyagraha made by his music director Michael Riesman and thus began my fascination with the art of transcribing the theatre music of Philip Glass. It has been my privilege to work personally with Glass on repertoire ideas as well as musical ideas throughout the entire transcription process. In all I have transcribed eleven movements from various theatre works. The first three were published by Chester Music as the Trilogy Sonata, and all eleven make their recording debut on this CD.

Orphée Suite for Piano (2000). The impetus for my transcriptions from Philip Glass’s Orphée came when Mr. Glass visited Lincoln, Nebraska back in 1999. After spending an exhilarating hour in my studio going over potential opera scores, we both decided that Orphée would work especially well transcribed for piano. A University of Nebraska-Lincoln Research Council grant enabled me to transcribe and record the newly created Orphée Suite for Piano during the summer of 2000. The premier performance was given in April of 2001 at the Greenwich House Music School in New York City.

I have always been inspired as a musician by the mystical interplay between the spiritual and the physical worlds. And this fascinating intercourse is the basis for Jean Cocteau’s remarkable 1950 film version of Orphée on which Glass based his 1991 opera. The disarming simplicity of Glass’s music idiom is especially suited to communicating the unique tension that exists between these two worlds.

I have tried in my selection of transcriptions, to communicate the most poignant aspects of the emotional world so brilliantly crafted by Glass in his score. The opening movement, “The Cafe”, takes place in the 1950’s in a trendy, poets cafe in Paris. At a time when poetry constituted the cultural life blood of society, poets young and old gather in this stimulating and emotionally charged environment to discuss the latest and most controversial trends. Orphée (played by Jean Marais in Cocteau’s film) is in the cafe and comments to the owner “Your cafe is a winner. I think it is the center of the world!” Glass uses a neo-ragtime style that increases in complexity as the scene erupts into a brawl of emotionally fired artists and poets.

The second movement is a touching piece accompanying the scene where the mysterious Princess, Orphée’s ‘Death’, (played by the stunning Maria Casares) seriously violates a precept of underworld justice: she tarries in the human world for personal reasons. Here she simply watches Orphée as he sleeps with Euridice, crossing that forbidden chasm of emotional connection to the human world. Glass’s makes subtle reference to Gluck’s famous aria used by Cocteau in the film. This unique adaptation is particularly effective in portraying the timeless contemplation of love in this scene totally without action.

The “Journey to the Underworld” accompanies the mysterious journey of Orphée with the Princess’s chauffeur Heurtebise to find Euridice who has been prematurely taken to the Underworld by the Princess. The journey begins with Heurtebise revealing the mysterious nature of mirrors. “Mirrors are the doors through which death comes and goes…” And right before the journey begins, Heurtebise gives Orphée the most important truth for those seeking the mystical journey: “You don’t have to understand. It is only necessary to believe.”

The forth movement introduces an important chord progression symbolizing the love of the Princess for Orphée. It’s simplicity and emotional directness disarm the critic as the listener melts into the unadulterated beauty of triadic bliss. Yet the F Major-a minor, B-flat Major-D-flat Major love theme never occurs without an excursion to e-minor, a musical darkness that reveals the complicated nature of this cross-temporal love. The princess remarks, “In our world, no one loves, we only move from judgment to judgment.” A brief musical interlude accompanies Orphée, Euridice, and Heurtebise as they return from the Underworld to the world above.

In a brawl, Orphée is shot and returns for a second time to the Underworld where he encounters the Princess. Orphée exclaims: “I found a way to rejoin you!” This impressive scene consists of the love progression with its accompanying melody chromatically contorted and brought to a frenzied climax as the Princess reveals her plan to sacrifice herself in order to send Orphée back to the land of the living. She exclaims to Heurtebise “A poet’s Death must sacrifice herself to make him immortal.” And then to Orphée: “Don’t try to understand what I am about to do— for it isn’t understandable in any world.” As the love theme builds to an impassioned climax, Heurtebise begins the difficult task of leading Orphée out of the Underworld, unauthorized— a sacrificial act that will doom the princess for eternity. The clock strikes six, the same time when Orphée entered the Underworld revealing that time as we know it does not exist in the Underworld.

The final scene returns to Orphée’s bedroom ironically this time with Orphée watching Euridice sleeping. In the style of a baroque lament, the music is at once tender and melancholy. While the contemplative mood of the first Bedroom piece is maintained, the piece then moves to the ominous key of e-minor where the fate of the princess is being carried out amidst the bliss of the reunited Orphée and Euridice. The love progression returns for a final time, as the princess’s faithful aides have now been transformed into her escorts to her final judgment. The Princess bids adieu amidst the tension of the bittersweet final C minor major triad.

Trilogy Sonata (1998) was initially conceived as the result of a series of piano arrangements from the operas of Philip Glass that I had the privilege of premiering at various performances in New York. Realizing the intrinsic emotional quality of each of the transcriptions from the ‘portrait’ trilogy of Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten, I remarked to Glass that these three arrangements actually follow the psychological progression of a typical classical sonata. Knee Play No. 4 from Einstein with its energetic opening progression is followed by a contrasting theme of great lyrical beauty reminiscent of the contrasting themes and the fast pace of a typical Mozart sonata form. The Satyagraha arrangement approaches that cherished 2nd movement position in the sonata cycle where the fast pace of the opening movement is abandoned in favor of a more contemplative excursion into musical space. And the third movement has traditionally been reserved for the light-hearted and high-spirited dance. The Dance movement from Akhnaten fulfills this emotional expectation quite effectively albeit with an energy level that would have defied the 18th century Viennese imagination. The result is an unusual sense of time travel as the unmistakable rhythmic identity of Philip Glass is temporarily viewed through the looking glass of the 18th century sonata cycle. The Trilogy Sonata is published by Chester Music and is available in the US at or in Europe at

I had the privilege of attending the New York premier of Glass’s “digital opera” Monsters of Grace at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Immediately after removing my 3D glasses after the performance, I remarked to Glass that I had found the ideal piece to close out the transcription CD. With the unusual meter, and the hypnotic and powerful D octave pedal points used throughout, this transcription of the epilogue has become an audience favorite as I’ve taken my Glass transcriptions on the road.

— Paul Barnes

The eclectic interests of pianist Paul Barnes have taken him from monasteries in the Judean desert to the Liszt Academy in Budapest. Exploring both minimalism and religious symbolism in music, Barnes has been featured three times on NPR’s Performance Today and has recently performed in Jerusalem, Moscow, Greece, Seoul, Vienna, Budapest and in the major cities throughout the US.

Deeply inspired by the aesthetic challenge of minimalism, Barnes has given several world premier performances of works by Philip Glass and has published a collection of his own transcriptions from Glass’s operas with Chester Music of London. Barnes gave the world premier performance of Glass’s Orphée Suite in New York City in April of 2001. He will give the world premier performance of Glass’s Second Piano Concerto commemorating the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition on September 18, 2004 in Lincoln at the Lied Center for Performing Arts with the Omaha Symphony Orchestra under Victor Yampolsky. Performances of the new concerto are planned at major cities along the Lewis and Clark trail beginning with the premier and continuing throughout both the 2004-5 and 2005-6 seasons.

A champion of many of today’s important composers, Barnes’ electrifying performances of David Ott’s Second Piano Concerto have brought audiences to their feet both in the U.S. and in Europe. After a recent performance the Czech paper Lidove Noviny proclaimed “American pianist breaks distrust of modern music!” Barnes has also recorded a CD series entitled American Piano Concertos on Koch International. The first volume includes the concertos of Joan Tower, David Ott, and Victoria Bond.

With performances throughout Europe, the Near East, the Far East, and the U.S., Barnes’ unique lecture/recitals have received international acclaim. Liszt and the Cross: Music as Sacrament in the B Minor Sonata explores the fascinating relationship between music, theology, and the Orthodox icon. Barnes’ latest lecture/recital entitled Minimalism, Mysticism and Monasticism: Music as Contemplation delves into the contemplative aspects of music featuring ancient Byzantine chant and the piano works of Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass.

Reflecting his passionate interest in ancient chant and liturgy, Barnes also serves as head chanter at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. Barnes is co-chair of piano at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Music. Barnes is married to pianist Ann Chang Barnes and has three remarkable children and two exceptional dogs. More information can be found at


Music Composed by Philip Glass. Transcribed and performed by Paul Barnes.

Recorded in Kimball Recital Hall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Recording Engineer: Tom Larson.
Graphic Design by aijalon Photo for Paul Barnes: Don Hunstein.

Cover Art: Barnett Newman 1905-1970 “Horizon Light” 1949, oil on canvas. © Barnett Newman Foundation / Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), NY. Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Sills.
Philip Glass’ music is Published by Dunvagen Music Publishers, Inc. 632 Broadway, Suite 902, New York, NY 10012.

℗ and © 2003 Orange Mountain Music.



Orphée Suite
Monsters of Grace
“Trilogy” Sonata

Satyagraha on Sony Masterworks
Akhnaten on Sony Masterworks
Einstein on the Beach on Nonesuch
Orphee on Orange Mountain Music