glass notes
At Last, The Mighty Toltec

My apologies for being quiet for almost a week. The end of summer is
approaching and I'm happy to report it's become pleasant weather-wise
in New York and a slight coolness has entered the air which brings me
great joy as we head into an autumn that promises two large premieres
after a very quiet period.

KEPLER will be brought into the world in eighteen days at the Landestheater Linz on September 20 (then at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in November.)  I look very forward to Glass' first opera since Appomattox and a return toward figures of science (Einstein, Galileo, The Light)
I think i's safe to say that science is a very fertile subject for the
composer.  Just the period of gestation being much more abundant
promises good things.

On the recording front, here is the cover of the long awaited first recording of the Seventh Symphony "A TOLTEC SYMPHONY." 
Composed in 2004, I can't recall an instance where a Glass symphony had
to wait this long for a recording. It may have to do with the fact that
Dennis Russell Davies was not the conductor who premiered the piece and
didn't soon after make a recording. Who knows. The important thing is
that it is finally arriving in 2009.  It will be presented by Orange Mountain Music
firstly as an iTunes Exclusive for a certain period of time(in
September), to be followed by release on Amazon (October), and in
stores before the end of the year in time for the Bruckner Orchester
Linz US tour (during which they will play the Toltec Symphony at UNC.) 
piece which is heard on the Orange Mountain Music recording has been
substantially revised.  For those who heard the BBC Proms recording,
they presented the revised version.  Most of the revisions were made to
the third movement.  Here's to the Toltec!

15 thoughts on “At Last, The Mighty Toltec”

  1. I had the opportunity to hear the unrevised version of the piece on the NPR website and though that wasn’t the complete piece, what I heard was more interesting and beautiful. For what reason did he “revise” it?

  2. It was the “old” coda I heard and like I said, it was very expressive and beautiful…and certainly more original than the revised edition. Don’t get me wrong but I think this may be his weakest symphony. Not that it doesn’t have anything interesting to say (I like the first movement a lot)…it just doesn’t have the fire of the 6th or 8th. Its definitely worth a listen though!

  3. I have and continue to have mixed feelings about the entirety of the Glass symphonies. I’m ashamed to admit it because there is some good music there, but 1 and 4, I sort of dismiss out of hand because of their basis being other people’s music. 2 is a huge monolithic almost static beast. I never get too excited about it, but I see it as Glass taking a serious look at symphonic form. 3 is a masterpiece. I’ve had mixed feelings about 5 but it’s come to grow on me. I know it’s criticized for being bloated and over-the-top, but there’s actually a lot of good music in there, and its effect, if one has the time and inclination to sit through it from beginning to end, is impressive. I had mixed feelings about 6 at its premiere at the beginning of 2002 and didn’t think much of it. I was waiting for something more like the stuff I liked at the time (the portrait trilogy), but then when I heard it at the end of 2005 when it was paired at the premiere of 8. On second hearing it became a totally different piece (probably I changed) and it’s now up there with 3 and 8 as the best Glass symphonies. What’s important about 7 is how I see it relating to 8, which is my favorite. They were written within a year of each other. In other words, this may seem obvious, but there could be no 8 without 7. The story of the Glass symphonies continues to make me believe in the anti-masterpiece theory that in fact there are no masterpieces, we are all simply observing a great artist’s conversation with himself.

  4. No. 6 is a truly moving, wonderful piece. I don’t l know why it hasn’t caught on more (perhaps the sopranos feel they have something better to do). I actually really like no. 1 since it seems to have more Glass than Bowie in it. No. 2 is passable and no. 4 is unbearable (I have no idea why it gets performed so frequently). So basically, I really love numbers 3, 5, 6, and 8.
    It seems Glass’s most mediocre pieces get performed most frequently while his gems rarely see the light of day. I’m thinking that god-awful Timpani filth gets performed seemingly 10 times a year while Sixth has been performed only occasionally. Why is this?

  5. Well, 3 gets performed all the time because of its modest scale. I would say that 4 gets performed the next most frequently. It’s popular to play a movement or two from it. It’s really a re-harmonized collection of songs for orchestra. It’s fine, but again not my favorite. I think the lighter pieces are by definition more popular. 5, with it’s big orchestra, soloists and choirs is so expensive, it barely ever gets done but it has had some performances. DRD did it a couple years ago in Germany and is going to do it again in the spring in Basel.
    6 is being done in the Czech repubic in Nov. I would love to hear more orchestras and different sopranos give it a shot as Flanigan wasn’t my favorite. 1 got a performance last year in Calgary. The bigger problem is that No major American orchestra will go anywhere near one of these symphonies. Even 8…which is a crime.

  6. It is a crime indeed, for 8th Symphony is his best. Nevertheless, I feel like you are both being overly harsh to his other symphonies and it is a crime of sorts too.
    To start with, dismissing 1 and 4 on basis of some connection to other musicians is somewhat ridiculous.
    Yes, there are some recognizinble elements in there but as someone who actually heard the original albums I realized just how much new and different work Glass put in there. It’s not just a matter of orchestration, this is a very different beast musically speaking. The connection to Bowie and Eno doesn’t bother me at all because I recognize them more as sources of insparation than genuine musical contributors. Should I dismiss the amazing “Passages”, or the somewhat less amazing but nonetheless good “Music From the Screens” just because they were collaborative projects?
    I like “pure Glass” as much as anyone here but these other projects offer a great compliment to his solo work.
    But above all Symphony #1 is probably his second best one.
    Love, love “Subterraneans”! It’s got such a wonderful pieceful feel to it and it genuinly sounds so different from most everything Glass ever tackled. And, by the way, his take on “Some Are” is nothing short of brilliant. I truly recommend you seek out the almost impossibly hard to find original version by Bowie and compare it to the Glass’s version.
    Now Symphony #4 may be an acquired taste but that’s one of the reasons I like it. To me, it’s worth hearing just for “Sons of Silent Age” alone.
    I like #2 both musucially and conceptually. I admit that I don’t revisit it as much as some of his other works, but I come back to it for that quientessential Glass rhythm.
    I think it’s completely in the same league as #3, which I also really like and which has some advantages and disadvantages over #2. It’s certainly a little less “mechanic” in sound.
    As for #5… Well, it’s hard for me to think of it as a symphony. It’s just too epic for that. Yes, it’s occasionaly frustrating and has way too many false starts but man, does it ever have some amazing music. In particular, movement #5 is the one I come back to the most, with it’s haunting and almost somewhat offputing orchestration.
    Not something I could handle in one seating on an average day though.
    I’ve listened to both versions (with and sang Ginsberg’s voiceover) of #6 a number of times, but it’s still one I come back to the least. I still like it, though it’s not exactly my favorite style, but I just have to be in a very specific mood to enjoy it.
    Sorry, if this reply sounds too confused. It came out of me stream of consciousness style 😉 .
    P.S. I take it, Glass has no plans whatsoever to back and finish the B/E Trilogy with “Lodger”.

  7. I always listen to the 6th with the Allen Ginsberg voice; and I wonder how it could be performed with another voice.
    My favourite is Low Symphony. In the beginning of the first movement, the music seems looking for a start, then there is a short dance like part, and a prolonged final part where the music seems looking for an end.

  8. The third movement on the recording is an orchestrated version of The Unutterable from Powaqqatsi.
    It works very well in the seventh symphony as a finale!

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