glass notes
2015 Year in Review

2014 ended on a high note with the THE COMPLETE PIANO ETUDES having its New York premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, an event which took place immediately after the OMM recording was released as well as the accompanying published sheet music.  For 2015, I crafted a small survey of major Glass events in 2015 including recordings, events, and new commissions.


Perhaps the most unusual thing that happened this year in terms of Glass’s productivity was the appearance of his memoirs WORDS WITHOUT MUSIC which was published by Liveright.  In betwen all his other normal hyperactive activity, Glass took to the road on an honest-to-goodness Book Tour to promote the work.  The book was very well received by the public as well as, among others, the NY Times book review.  Completely different in character than his first book MUSIC BY PHILIP GLASS, this memoir takes a softer less cerebral tone and was clearly conceived for not just an exclusively musical public.  I was a fan of his first book which covered his early musical days up to 1987 including his first Violin Concerto.  Much of WORDS WITHOUT MUSIC covers a lot of the same territory yet this time with more of a storyteller’s craft.  The memoir ends in the mid-to-late 1990s before Glass’s career went supernova.   A master at leaving the audience wanting more, so much of Glass’s later music, collaborations and expereinces goes unaddressed in this book. However, that is perhaps my only criticism of the book I had the privilege to read in draft form, and twice in finished form.


Notably, not long after the Complete Etudes (the show) was presented at BAM, a number of pianists undertook recording the Etudes either in part or whole inlcuding Paul Barnes, Jenny Lin, Bojan Gorisek, Nicholas Horvath, and Andrew Chubb.  New Music champions like Lisa Moore, Bruce Brubaker, Valentina Lisitsa, Francesco Di Diore, and Floraleda Sacchi had very interesting new interpretations of well-trodden Glass piano music.  There were a number of really interesting new recordings by major artists like Gidon Kremer’s performance of Violin Concerto No.2 on an album called “New Seasons” , Momenta Quartet’s new recording of “Music in Similar Motion,”,or eighth blackbird’s recording of “Two Pages” with Bryce Dessner.

There were a number of cool “Singles:”  Matt Haimovit’z recording of “Orbit” for Solo Cello, Paul Barnes’s “Dreaming Awake,”  Gamelan Pacifica’s recording of “Opening”, and this cool organ/saxophone rendition of “Facades”

A couple of my favorite albums of the year were the Carducci Quartet’s new recordings of String Quartet No.5, a suite from Dracula, and the String Sextet and Iveta Apkalna’s pairing of the organ works of Glass and Bach.  Special mention also goes to Michael Riesman’s OMM album of transcriptions from Glass’s opera La Belle et la Bete, completing the piano versions of the Cocteau trilogy (Barnes’ Orphée suite, and Namekawa/Davies two-piano version of Les Enfants Terribles.)

Orange Mountain Music did focus on some new recordings of previously recorded music like Massimo Menotti’s guitar album of early Glass music, or the very overdue re-issue of The Illusionist,

but the company fulfilled its principal function as being the only company which brings NEW recordings of NEW Glass music into the world.  As such OMM release Tim Fain’s excellent premiere recording of “Partita for Solo Violin” as well as the never-before-released- film score to “A Brief History of Time”,  “Symphony No.10/Concert Overture 2012″ by Glass stalwarts Davies/Bruckner Orchester Linz.


Philip Glass continues his lifelong habit of performing all over the world in interesting places, and the same can be said for his music.  A number of major events popped up which caught my attention including the opening of the new Philharmonie in Paris which has hosted already performances of Glass’s Symphony No.1 “Low”, Symphony No.4 “Heroes”, his Three Ifè Songs with Angelique Kidjo (also performed at the San Francisco Symphony), and this spring they will play host to Glass’s newest concert work, his Double Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra. Fall and Winter of 2014 were committed to the composition of that concerto and it’s begun to make its way around the world soloists, the Labèque sisters have performed the work at its premiere in Los Angeles, in Instabul, and they will take it to the Paris Philharmonie as well as to Madrid Spain and Scandinavia this spring.  The first half of 2015 saw Glass devoted almost exclusively to the composition and re-conception of his 2007 opera APPOMATTOX.  To call this piece a revision is insufficient.  There will well over an hour of new material, resequencing of old material, to the point where it bears almost no theatrical relationship to its first version.  I consider the piece to be one of the more impressive things Glass has created to date.  After two very positive reviews in the Washington Post, the piece received mixed reviews elsewhere.  It will be interesting to see what the future holds for this opera.

In general, Glass’s catalogue got a workout this season. Symphonies Nos.1,2,3,4, and 7 were performed multiple times as well as many of the concertos and tone poems like The Light, which seems to be making a comeback – as well as pieces like Days & Nights in Rocinha. On the opera front numerous operas were produced from multiple productions of “Hydrogen Jukebox” to “In The Penal Colony” and “Galileo Galilei.”

The other appearance of Glass’ name on a major platform was for the film FANTASTIC FOUR (10% on Rotten Tomatoes) co-composed by Marco Beltrami.  To my ears, other than a slight Glassism in the opening track, I couldn’t decipher much of a presence of Glass’s common gestures/harmonies.  All the same, it was a thrill to consider Glass scoring a big super-hero music, albeit a not very successful one.

NEW WORKS:  So in 2015 we had one true premiere of a major work with the DOUBLE CONCERTO FOR TWO PIANOS and a major rebirth of an opera with APPOMATTOX 2.0.  In the interstices there was a surprise piece written for double bassist Robert Black called “The Not Doings of an Insomniac (in the form of a Partita for Double Bass)” premiered in June at the Double BAss convention in Fort Collins Colorado.  Apparently on the road in a hotel room suffering from insomnia, Philip Glass found the time to compose this 20 minute piece for double bass designed to be performed with poems read in between the seven movements.

And finally, another piece popped up recently when cellist Matt Haimovitz commissioned Philip Glass to compose a Prelude to Bach’s G major Cello Suite.  Glass composed a 4 minute work which will be recorded by Haimovitz in the new year.  Haimovitz, who lives in Montreal, will perform a Glass cello concerto next season with the Ochestre Symphonique de Montréal.  As such, he premiered the new Glass piece at a coffeehouse outside of Ottawa.

1 thought on “2015 Year in Review”

  1. My highlights of 2015 were Glass’ Double Concerto for Two Pianos which I bought on iTunes weeks ago and the complete etudes at London’s Barbican Centre in April.
    Looking forward to more concerts with Glass’ music next year!

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