Dracula was the first Philip Glass show I ever attended. It was in Boston at the Orpheum Theater in maybe 1999 or 2000 and it was fantastic. Glass composed the score for the Kronos Quartet but they soon discovered when adapting it for live performance that the quartet would need break, so out of necessity Glass added/arranged two keyboard parts for himself and Michael Riesman to perform with the quartet and when they needed rests. So, by the time of the first performance live-to-film there were already TWO versions of Dracula – the original, and the version for quartet and two keyboards.
I was thinking this morning about the different versions of Dracula for two reasons. Firstly, my office is located in Salem Massachusetts, a.k.a. the Halloween capital of the world. Secondly, this week Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet perform the work in Los Angeles at the ACE HOTEL
So it was for a long while that these two versions were the only available versions of the score until Glass decided to add the newly popular piece to the touring repertoire of the Philip Glass Ensemble (keyboards,woodwinds.) As music director of the PGE, Michael Riesman prepared that adaptation and what is interesting about that version are the comedic elements in the score which are not apparent when played by only strings (basically anything played by the bass clarinet in the score underlines the comedy in Bela Lugosi’s performance). So at this point THREE versions of the Dracula score existed.
Somewhere around 2006, Riesman again arranged the piece as a concert suite for piano and strings – presumably based on the quartet/keyboard version. It’s a substantial suite and a wonderful concert piece that remains unpublished and only exists for Riesman orchestra performances. This is now known as the FOURTH iteration of Dracula.
Riesman was so intimately involved in the material at this point that when working on a new album of solo piano transcriptions he decided to perform the entirety of the Dracula score for solo piano. For me there’s something magical about the solo piano arrangement that evokes the old movie-house feel. So it was that a FIFTH version of Dracula came to be.
Riesman’s Solo Piano version should not be confused with Bruce Levingston’s piano arrangement of Dracula (SIXTH VERSION):
Then over the past two seasons Riesman began a series of chamber concerts with violinist Chase Spruill during which they performed a suite for violin and piano (SEVENTH VERSION):
I’ve always felt that there was some instrumental neutrality to the way Philip Glass composes music that lends itself to all sorts of transcriptions. I have a feeling that Dracula would also sound good on according trio or for brass band. Such musical resilience speaks to compositional strength. It reminds me of Shostakovich’s take on the issue:
“A great piece of music is beautiful regardless of how it is performed. Any prelude or fugue of Bach can be played at any tempo, with or without rhythmic nuances, and it will still be great music. That’s how music should be written, so that no-one, no matter how philistine, can ruin it.”
So perhaps there will be more versions of this score in the future for these are just five of the many guises of Dracula.