glass notes
Philip Glass & Arvo Pärt via Igor Stravinsky

On Friday night, in celebration of Philip
Glass' 75th year, a great program taking place in Rome, "Homage to Philip Glass
(Omaggio a Philip Glass)." 
Of course All-Glass programs are
the best way to hear Glass –  but I
appreciate smart programming on symphonic and chamber music programs. 

For hard-core classical programs there are
certain kindred composer spirits that work well on the same program
with Philip Glass' music.  For example, on the Glass Chamber Players
record “Glass/Schoenberg, (relatively early) Schoenberg worked surprisingly
well with Glass.  While that seemed like
a marriage of strange bedfellows, it's clear that Schubert and Glass go well
together.  There’s a certain
compatibility between their aesthetic sense.  Perhaps as a byproduct of his
French training, most French composers that we hear often go well with Glass.
My dream is to hear a big Glass/Berlioz program – something wild like Berlioz' Te
paired with Glass' Toltec

Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt are godchildren of
Stravinsky.  Despite his own stories of his encounters with Indian music, Glass'
energy and rhythmic drive also spring partly out of Stravinsky’s language. Stravinsky
and Glass are certainly in my opinion the two major "International"
composers of the 20th century.  As conductor/educator John Mauceri
recently pointed out
, even an early piece like Le Sacre du Printemps
isn't truly a "Russian" work.  That Stravinsky didn't even set
foot in Russia for half a century, that his music was officially shunned in
Russia, and that he and his music were adored and performed almost everywhere except for Russia,
settles that issue. 

I see a bizarre yet similar situation with
Glass and his home country when it comes to his symphonies. His symphonic music is performed with great frequency in
Europe with American orchestras still content to pretend his symphonic output
nonexistent.  With the exception of America's symphony societies, Glass’
music is performed all around the world almost daily.  (For better or
worse – depending on whom you ask), he is the only composer of
"serious" music who has managed to get within shouting distance of a
greater public consciousness.   That the recording of his Ninth Symphony, a 50-minute work for grand
symphony orchestra, made it to #15 on the iTunes Pop Charts in February, is
still incredible to me. 

On the other side, Arvo Pärt’s music has no
such stigma.  His music is adored the
world around as well.  And to be fair, he
also has a large celebrity, but whereas I cast Stravinsky and Glass Internationalists, upon hearing any work
by Pärt, I’m sent immediately to the interior of a dark stone church deep in Eastern
Europe.  What connects Arvo to Igor is an
earnest, sincere, and specific religious belief in which religious subjects are often the
subject of the music. One only need think of Symphony of Psalms, Requiem Canticles, Mass, Canata, to the large majority of Pärt's compositions like Pater Noster, Te Deum, Berliner Messe, etc).  And while Glass is certainly very American in many ways, I argue that his music belongs as much to the world as it does to America, forming a Plutonian Glassian concept of religion; he selects his favorite concepts of many religions.  Indeed, whenever Glass comes close to specific religions, he soon counterweights it by composing large-canvas statements of universal religious wisdom.

I have never had the chance to hear Glass and
Stravinsky on the same symphonic program. I have on the other hand had two
occasions to hear Pärt and Glass.  At the
US premiere of Glass Symphony No.9 at
Carnegie Hall, the first half of the program was Pärt’s Lamentate for piano and orchestra. A couple months later, on the
Los Angeles Philharmonic’s program that included the West Coast Premiere of
Glass’ Ninth Symphony, the program
included Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin

On both programs, Glass and Pärt seemed like
brothers long separated.  The former a
sort of universalist and proponent in bringing people together under the big tent
of music – embracing everything from grand operas and film scores to world
music and tv commercials; the latter an intimate sentimentalist who convinces
you of dignity and humanity of mankind through a kind of almost one-on-one conversation
with his music.  It’s that dignity and
humanity which binds these two composers, uniting them through time and space.

Friday Night's Program in Rome:

Stravinsky, 4 Canti contadini russi

Pärt, De Profundis

Stravinsky, Concertino per 12 strumenti

Stravinsky, Ave Maria

Pärt, Pari intervallo

Stravinsky, Pater Noster

Glass, Einstein on the Beach: Knee Play#1

Glass, Evidence

Glass, Satyagraha: Evening Song

Glass, The Photographer: A Gentleman’s Honor

Glass, Songs for liquid days: Freezing

Glass, Kundun: Escape from India

Glass, Einstein on the Beach: Knee Play#5

Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Contemporary Music Ensemble of the Parco della Musica

Directors: Ciro Visco & Tonino Battista

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