Just back this morning at 5:30am from Orange County where I took in four remarkable performances of Philip Glass's Passion of Ramakrishna. Glass did pre-concert talks on the first three nights, a solo piano performance last night, Long Beach Opera's performances of Akhnaten, and many other lectures and appearances as part of the "first ever" Philip Glass Fesitval in Southern California. Let's hope there's more.
The Pacific Symphony's performances of the Passion were excellent. Carl St. Clair led the huge forces of 100 piece orchestra, soloists, and a chorus, the Pacific Chorale prepared by John Alexander, in the 45 minute work about the death of Sri Ramakrishna.
As for action and story, there's not much there. The piece presents episodes from the last months of Ramakrishna's life as he's surrounded by his wife, his close friend and follower M. who recorded all his work, a doctor who presides over his death, and two devotees (soloists taken from the choir.) Where is Ramakrishna in all this you ask? His words are sung by the chorus itself.
Normally live recordings are at the mercy of any number of elements. The fantastic Segerstrom Concert Hall was a wonderful acoustic environment for this piece and the ensemble and conductor knew well. With four performances recorded and able to be edited, I'm sure this is going to make for a fantastic recording.
Here are a couple of reviews:
A piece on Akhnaten
and a NY Times review of our buddies Brooklyn Rider at Lincoln Center