Once again Glass fans find ourselves in an exciting period. On Friday, Evan Ziporyn conducted the debut of the all-volunteer Ambient Orchestra in the Boston premieres of Glass’s Low and Heroes Symphonies in a benefit performance for cancer research under the name “An Orchestral Tribute to David Bowie.”
The energy and excitement were palpable between audience and musicians alike. It was one of those events all too rare in the world of professional music in which a concert felt right on every level. For the world of classical music it was a rare opportunity for timely relevance. Orchestral concerts usually take months if not years to put together. The good will in this case from everyone in the classical and new music world was so immediate that from inception to execution of the idea only two weeks had passed. Even in New York the community of popular musicians have needed more time to organize their own event recognizing Bowie’s genius.
To channel the feelings we all had regarding David Bowie’s passing, it simply wouldn’t have felt the same way to perform something from the default collection of classical music for every sad occasion (Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Mahler’s Adagietto, the Marche Funèbre from Beethoven’s Eroica, Mahler’s 2nd, etc.) This was an occasion where the musicians of noted music (for lack of a better term) were able to respond to a musical figure outside of their own world of music making. It was a moving experience and I sincerely thank all who were involved.
It seemed like a special concert and I will always remember it. The concert was streamed live on Q2 and has been archived for a limited time.
Another big event happened last week: the New York Philharmonic named its new music director Jaap van Zweden. I have been following van Zweden’s career for the better part of a decade since he was named conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. My nature is to be negative about appointments of music directors. I can’t recall any instance where I was happy about the announcement of any new music director with the exception of the Met Opera naming Fabio Luisi as Principal Conductor of the Met. it’s childish but reason for my pouting at such appointments is that my “local” orchestras (New York, Boston, Philadelphia) have never chosen a figure in my lifetime to whom I feel my own tastes musically align or whose musicianship inspires me personally.
In the case of orchestras who choose a conductor whose tastes might different from mine but whose artistry is a special and extraordinary case – like the brilliant Riccardo Muti in Chicago – I am immediately overcome with jealousy. So these things are usually lose-lose for me personally: either an appointment of a less-than-inspiring conductor will be made or the conductors I admire will be too far away for me to enjoy.
In the case of Jaap van Zweden, I have been admiring him from afar for a while mostly by seeing the repertoire he chooses to conduct and by listening recently to his survey of Bruckner Symphonies with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic as well as other recordings.
It also didn’t escape my attention that unlike every other music director of the New York Philharmonic, van Zweden has performed the concert music of Philip Glass. Uon hearing the announcement, I recalled immediately that he conducted Glass’s 2010 Double Concerto for Violin and Cello in Dallas and then again in Hong Kong. I then remembered that van Zweden would be soon performing Glass’s new Double Piano Concerto in Paris at the new Philharmonie in March with the Labèques.
When I was in Poland last year attending concerts I saw the high regard in which an entire culture valued its great living composers like Penderecki whose music is performed often. I’m speaking not only of the popularity of composers but I’m talking about how the big institutions embrace these living giants’ work. It’s always been very curious to me that the New York Philharmonic has never performed a concert work by Philip Glass which now includes 10 symphonies, 12 concerti and many other tone poems and oratorios. With the appointment of van Zweden, perhaps that might change.
in other events of note, Lisa Moore will be performing Glass’s rarely heard “Piano Concerto No.2: After Lewis and Clark” with the La Jolla Symphony on Friday night. A successful run of Satyagraha is being underway in Oldenburg Germany; mid-month Glass himself and the Philip Glass Ensemble will be in Switzerland performing Koyaanisqatsi in Geneva, before Glass returns stateside to perform piano concerts in Chicago and West Lafayette; and at will take place Feb.22.
The Vancouver Symphony (the last orchestra I can recall having played Low Symphony) will embrace Symphony No.3 this month, and Old friend and Glass champion Robert McDuffie will be performing Violin Concerto No.2 “The American Four Seasons” in Los Angeles with the American Youth Symphony on Feb.20th and back in his hometown Macon Georgia on Feb.27th right before Glass’s latest compositions for The Crucible on Broadway open previews on Leap Day February 29th.
The Perfect American will be released on CD February 22 and, as always check the PhilipGlass.com calendar for any and all known about performances!