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Singapore (String Quartet No.9 “King Lear”)
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When Philip Glass was asked to compose incidental music for a Broadway production of King Lear in 2019, he immediately knew he wanted to write for the string quartet: “I know how to write for string quartet. I love its range of emotion.” This concert version of the play’s score is his ninth work for string quartet, a medium he employs to great effect to depict the tumult, violence and despair at the heart of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy.
To capture the world of King Lear in music, Glass immersed himself in the historical background that may have influenced its conception: “I began picturing what it must have been like to see this piece for the first time in 1606. The Gunpowder Plot (a failed attempt to assassinate King James I of England) had happened only months before, in November, and the theatres were closed until the spring. If the insurrectionists had had their way, the whole government, including the king, would have all gone down. That was an astonishing event to happen in England, and it tore the country apart in many ways. The idea that part of the population would try to take down the government–it was shocking.”
For the original Broadway production, Glass spent weeks observing the actors in rehearsal, absorbing the play during the day and composing in the evenings. In this concert version, the stark dramatic landscape unfolds through Glass’s characteristic repetitive structures, oscillating harmonies and gently sawing rhythms, punctuated by icy textures heralding the monumental storm to come.
Completing the programme are Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte and Schubert’s famous string quartet Death and the Maiden.
Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte
Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 9, King Lear (Singapore premiere)
Franz Schubert: String Quartet No. 14, Der Tod Und das Mädchen