Glass Reflections
Music by Philip Glass
Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico
Elias Arizcuren, Conductor


Orange Mountain Music 0032


1 Symphony for Eight (from Symphony No. 3, Movement III) 9:46
2 Company (from Quartet No. 2, Movements I and II) 4:07
3 Mishima (from Quartet No. 3, Movements III and IV) 4:04
4 Façades (from Glassworks) 8:24
5 The Secret Agent (from The Secret Agent) 4:11
6 Blood on the Stairs (from The Secret Agent) 1:38
7 Emigration (from The Secret Agent) 1:49
8 Winnie Goes to Sea (from The Secret Agent) 2:35
9 The Secret Agent Ending (from The Secret Agent) 2:48
10 Attack and Fall (from Akhnaten, Act III) 8:01
11 Funeral of Amenhotep III (from Akhnaten, Act I) 9:08


The commissions that Elias Arizcuren and the Cello Octet Conjunto Ibèrico place with today’s leading composers share many similarities with Godot, the character in the play by Samuel Beckett. The main difference is that the long-awaited Godot never appears, while the music eventually does, even if Arizcuren has to wait five, seven or ten years, as he has with Sofia Gubaidulina, Mauricio Kagel, Cristobal Halffter and Philip Glass.

When the American composer Philip Glass heard the third movement of his third symphony played by the Cello Octet Conjunto Ibèrico in the Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw in 1999, he was so impressed by the quality and potential of Conjunto Ibèrico that he promised to write an original piece for them. But it soon became clear that this would take some time given the composer’s busy schedule. Arizcuren then suggested an evening-long Philip Glass programme, a ‘musical guide’ to his works. The composer gave the Cello Octet and Arizcuren ‘carte blanche’ to dive into his music. Not everyone appreciates Glass’ minimalism. Some unjustifiably label it as ‘simplistic’. Yet his work is by no means dull and does not aim to systematically exclude musical elements. Instead his music could be described as the result of a constant process of refining and polishing.

The pieces chosen for the ‘musical guide’ cover the most important elements of Glass’ works: the intimate chamber music of the string quartet (Mishima and Company), pieces played by a changing cast (Façades), symphonic music (Symphony for eight from the third movement of the third symphony in the version by the Cello Octet Conjunto Ibèrico), film music (The Secret Agent) and opera (Akhnaten, the third part of the trilogy which also includes Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha).

The Secret Agent, based on the book by Joseph Conrad, premiered in 1995. The film was directed by Christopher Hampton with a cast including Patricia Arquette, Gerard Depardieu and Bob Hoskins. The story is set in London at the end of the nineteenth century, when the city served as a refuge for all kinds of political exiles. Verloc is a spy for the Russian government but also works as an informant for the London police. When the new Russian ambassador begins to question Verloc’s value as a spy, Verloc sets a series of tragic events in motion that will affect his young wife Winnie, his demented brother and the Professor, a specialist in explosives. Glass’ soundtrack is made up of 16 short numbers and lasts 25 minutes. Five numbers are included in the version for cello-octet and synthesizer and give a fairly complete impression of the soundtrack.

Façades, composed in 1981, was originally written for two saxophones or two flutes and strings. Façades is a part of the score that Philip Glass wrote for the film Koyaanisqatsi, which was directed and produced by Godfrey Reggio. Koyaanisqatsi means ‘unbalanced life’ in the language of the Hopi Indians. The film, without actors and dialogue, shows the clash between two cultures; that of city life and its technology and that of nature.

The music accompanies apocalyptic images of an empty New York; the film shows the façades and skyscrapers in a completely deserted Wall Street district of Manhattan. In 1987 the score was given the name Glasspiece #2 as part of the CD ‘DancePieces’. Jerome Robbins used this music to choreograph dances for the New York City Ballet, which premiered in the city on May 12 1983.

String Quartet No. 2 Company. As with other works by Philip Glass, there are two versions of Company: one for the string orchestra and one for the string quartet. Company was originally composed to accompany a play by Samuel Beckett. Frederick Neumann turned Beckett’s piece into a monologue, in which an old man looks back on his life and is confronted by his total loneliness.

The writer Beckett chose where the four short music pieces would be played: the premiere was in the ‘Public Theatre’ in New York in 1983 performed by the ‘Mabou Mines Company’ — the theatre group set up in the sixties by the composer and his first wife Jo Anne Akalaitis. While the pieces were being premiered in 1983, Glass was busy composing the opera Akhnaten.

String Quartet No. 3 Mishima. This third string quartet by Philip Glass is part of the score originally composed for the film Mishima by Paul Schrader, the man behind such successful films as American Gigolo and Patty Hearst. In the film version, with a three tiered structure, the composer uses a symphony orchestra, a string orchestra and, for the most intimate and personal part of the film, a string quartet. Schrader paints a portrait of the excellent yet controversial Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. The writer was renown for his extreme right wing beliefs. He eventually committed suicide in the traditional Japanese way.

Symphony for eight is the title of the third movement of the third symphony for strings in the version by the Cello Octet Conjunto Ibèrico. Glass and Arizcuren met each other in 1998 at the opera house in Amsterdam. Arizcuren spoke of his admiration for many of the composer’s works, including the third symphony. Glass encouraged him to make a version for cello-octet. In June 1999 the composer heard the result in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, where Glass was a guest at the Festival of American Adventures.

Glass’ five symphonies were composed in just five years. The sixth will premiere in New York on February 3 2002 to mark the composer’s sixty-fifth birthday. The first symphony, Low, and the fourth, Heroes, are symphonic versions of music by pop singer David Bowie. Glass’ orchestral repertoire includes three works that draw their inspiration from nature: The Canyon, Itaipu and The Light.
The Third Symphony, for strings was written for the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and commissioned by the Würth Foundation.

The music was played for the first time on February 5 1995 in Künzelsau (Germany), conducted by Dennis Russell Davies. The third movement is a ‘chaconne’ with harmonic blocks that are repeated. The orchestral version begins with three cellos and four violas, step-by-step the other voices join in. In the octet version many double strings are played to ensure none of the voices are lost.

Funeral and Attack and Fall are the first and third act of the opera Akhnaten, written in 1982 and 1983 for the Stuttgart Opera. The premiere was held in 1984 with Achim Freyer as director. Akhnaten is the final part of the trilogy dedicated to men who exercised extreme influence on the world around them: Einstein, the brilliant scientist (who, incidentally, was also an extremely good amateur violinist); Gandhi, the pacifist who forced the English kingdom to make India an independent state; and Akhnaten, the Old Egyptian pharaoh who drastically changed his world in 1375 BC by turning his back on the huge numbers of gods that had been worshipped up until then. He introduced monotheism with Aton, the sun, as the only god. His beliefs influenced politics, arts and even the language. After seventeen years in power he was brutally ousted by a conspiracy of powerful and extremely conservative priests who had had to relinquish much of their power to Akhnaten. In Akhnaten the role of the orchestra is far more important than in Einstein on the Beach or Satyagraha. The infectious rhythmic patterns and the leading role of the orchestra are the reasons why Funeral and Attack and Fall have been included in the ‘musical guide’.

The Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico is a full time ensemble, a unique formation in the world of classical music. Writing about the Conjunto Ibèrico, the press has said: ‘…they are the discovery of the nineties, demonstrate the perfection of a string quartet and combine the volume of a small chamber-orchestra with Mediterranean passion.’ Recently the same press described the concerts with Teresa Berganza in Amsterdam, Brussels and at French festivals as ‘…highlights of the season’.
The career of Conjunto Ibèrico, founded in 1989 by Elias Arizcuren and supported by Mstislav Rostropovich and Yo-Yo Ma, could be summarised as 10 CDs and over 40 first performances of works by today’s most notable composers. Thanks to Elias Arizcuren’s tenacity, the Cello Octet is able to offer original works, most of them dedicated to Conjunto Ibèrico, by composers including Xenakis, Nobre, Haiffter, Pärt, Boulez, Donatoni, De Pablo, Bussotti, Denisov, Loevendie and Glass. Conjunto Ibèrico also plays some 70 beautiful Spanish songs (Turina, De Falla, Nin, Montsalvatge, Granados, Guridi, Albèniz) that have been a pleasant surprise to many an audience for several years.

The world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma recently said in an interview: ‘This ensemble is a treasure indeed, a fine example to the world of music… Wherever I play: Brazil, Japan, the USA, people talk to me about Conjunto Ibèrico… Elias Arizcuren is a true visionary, who has achieved something absolutely unique with his group.’ Cello Octet Conjunto Ibèrico has shown enormous diversity over the years: concerts with Teresa Berganza, a ballet production with Conny Janssen’s dance company, concerts with flamenco singer Carmen Linares and premieres of works by reputed composers. In addition to the concerts in many European countries and at prominent festivals, Cello Octet Conjunto Ibèrico has also performed in Asia, the United States and Canada.

NOTES ABOUT Elías Arizcuren
Elías Arizcuren, conductor and cellist, was born in Spain. He received his first lessons from his father and subsequently studied with Caspar Cassadó, Andrè Navarra and Sandor Vègh. In 1969 he founded the Mendelssohn Trio, which now has an extensive discography. He established a video method of ‘cello technique’, and wrote several books on ‘cello history’. Elias Arizcuren has published a collection of works of the repertoire and gives masterclasses in many countries. He is often invited to become a member of the jury in international competitions and teaches at the conservatory of Utrecht (Holland), in addition to his activities as a conductor.


Music by Philip Glass. Adaptations for Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico by Elias Arizcuren and Niko Ravenstijn with permission of the composer.
Performed by Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico conducted by Elias Arizcuren.

Cellists: Jeroen den Herder (soloist), Robert Putowski (soloist), Artur Trajko (soloist), Hanneke van de Bund, Christiaan van Hemert, Esther Iqlesias, Esmè de Vries, Mikolaj Palosz.

Singers: Astrid Lammers, Ilona Stokvis, Ronald Aijtink, Martijn de Graaf Bierbrauwer, Robert Kops, Bert Visser, Jean Paul van Spaendonk.

Production: Et’Ceterea. Producer: Tom Peeters. Additional recordings: Studio Eric de Reus, Henk Tjoonk. Recording: Mediatrack. Multi Track Editing: Arnout Probst. Recording Location: Doopsgezinde Kerk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Recording Date: December 2001.

Design: Lissi Sigillo. Linernotes: Elias Arizcuren. Translation English: Julia Hart. Correctors: Coen Linnekamp, José Luis García del Busto.
Many thanks to: José Jiménez Mesa, Dunvagen Music Publishers.

℗ and © 2006 by Orange Mountain Music.