Violin Concerto
Music by Philip Glass / John Adams
Houston Symphony
Robert McDuffie, violin
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor


Telarc 80494


JOHN ADAMS: Violin Concerto
1. I 14:44
2. II. Chaconne: Body through which the dream flows 11:02
3. III. Toccare 7:45

PHILIP GLASS: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
1. I 6:25
2. II 9:53
3. III 9:46


“You know there is a maverick tradition in American music that is very strong. It’s in Ives, Ruggles. Cage, Partch, Moondog, all of these weird guys. That’s my tradition.” Thus Philip Glass traced his artistic lineage in an interview with the composer Robert Ashley. Glass, born in Baltimore on January 31, 1937, began his musical career in a conventional enough manner: study at the University of Chicago and Juilliard; a summer at the Aspen Music Festival with Milhaud; lessons with Nadia Boulanger in France on a Fulbright scholarship; many compositions, several of them published, in a neoclassical style indebted to Copland and Hindemith. In 1965, however, Glass worked with the Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar in Paris on the score for a film titled Chappaqua, and that exposure to non-Western music was the turning point in forming Glass’ mature style.

In 1965-1966, Glass spent six months traveling in India, North Africa, and Central Asia, and he returned to New York in the spring of 1966 with a new musical vision (and a new religion — he has been a Tibetan Buddhist for years). Glass rejected his earlier works, formed an ensemble of amplified flutes and saxophones, electric organs and synthesizers, and began writing what is commonly known as “Minimalist” music (though Glass loathes the term; Debussy likewise insisted that he was not an “Impressionist.”) “Minimalist” music is based upon the repetition of slowly changing common chords in steady rhythms, often overlaid with a lyrical melody in long, arching phrases. Glass views this style, which contrasts starkly with the fragmented, ametric, harshly dissonant post-Schoenberg music that had been the dominant style for the twenty-five years after the Second World War, as hypnotic and trance-like, lifting the spirit out of the mundane and freeing the mind. Minimalist music is meant, quite simply, to sound beautiful and to be immediately accessible to all listeners. Indeed, Glass represents the epitome of the modern “cross-over” artist, whose music appeals equally to classical, rock and jazz audiences.

Such an extraordinary, new style was not quickly accepted, but Glass was determined to continue on the path he had chosen. He kept composing and honing the skills and performances of his ensemble, but supported himself for some time as a taxi driver and plumber. His first wide recognition came with the four-and-a-half-hour opera Einstein on the Beach, produced at the Metropolitan Opera House on November 21, 1976, in collaboration with multi-media artist Robert Wilson. Glass has since produced several more operas (including Satyagraha, based on Gandhi’s years in South Africa; Akhnaten, concerning an Egyptian pharaoh martyred for his monotheism; and The Voyage, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and premiered there in 1992), compositions for dance companies, film scores (perhaps most memorably those for The Thin Blue Line and Koyaanisqatsi, an extraordinary movie comprising exclusively images and music without a single spoken word), works for his own ensemble (its 1981 recording, Glassworks, was a best-seller), and several unclassifiable theater pieces (The Photographer, 1000 Airplanes on the Roof, The Mysteries, and What’s So Funny?). Among his recently completed works are Low Symphony (based on David Bowie’s album Low), Second Symphony (commissioned by the Brooklyn Philharmonic), three pieces based on the films of Jean Cocteau (Orphée, La Belle et La Bête, and Les Enfants Terribles), The Witches of Venice (a ballet created by Beni Montressor and commissioned by Teatro alla Scala, Milan), and the Symphony No. 3 for the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.

Glass composed his Violin Concerto, his first orchestral work since his student days, between November 1986 and February 1987 on commission from the American Composers Orchestra, which gave the work’s premiere at New York’s Carnegie Hall under the baton of Dennis Russell Davies on April 5, 1987, with the composer’s long-time friend and collaborator Paul Zukofsky as soloist. Though the work is scored for standard orchestra without the electronics that give a characteristic sonority to so many of Glass’ compositions, he said that “the piece explores what an orchestra can do for me. In it, I’m more interested in my own sound than in the capability of particular orchestral instruments. It is tailored to my musical needs.” The Concerto’s form evolved as Glass worked with its musical ideas (“the material finds it own voice,” he explained), and finally settled into a conventional three-movement fast-slow-fast arrangement with a reflective coda added at the end. Glass sees the genre of the concerto as “more theatrical and more personal” than the purely orchestral forms, and the soloist in this work finds an individuality that sets it apart from the larger ensemble, sometimes strewing lightning-flash cascades of arpeggios upon the pulsing background chords, sometimes soaring over them with spacious, arching, cantabile lines.

— Richard E. Rodda


Violin concertos of John Adams & Philip Glass. Robert McDuffie, Violin. Christoph Eschenbach conducts Houston Symphony.

Recording Producer: Erica Brenner. Recording Engineer: Jack Renner. Executive Producer: Robert Woods.

Technical Assistants: Robert Friedrich, Marlan Barry, Shannon Smith.

Production Assistant: Thomas C. Moore.

Editor: Rosalind Ilett.

Recorded in Jones Hall, Houston, Texas, September 28-29, 1998.

Microphones: Neumann M50b; Schoeps CMC-6 / MK-2, MK-3; Neumann KU-100.

On-Stage Microphone Preamplifiers: Millennia Media HV-3 Quad. Console: Ramsa WR-S4424S, custom engineered by John Windt. Interconnecting Cables: This recording utilized the latest in cable technology including Monster Cable M1500, M1.5, Series I & III Prolink and Music Interface Technologies Proline with Balanced Line Terminators. Digital Recording Processor: Telarc/Ultra-Analog Tandem 20-bit ADC custom engineered by Dr. Thomas Stockham, Gary Gomes, and Kenneth Hamann. Monitored through Krell “Studio” 20-bit DAC. Power Amplifier: Threshold SA-4. Monitor Speakers: ADS 1530. Control Room Acoustic Treatment: sonex by illbruck usa. Digital Editor: SADiE Disk Editor. 20-to 16-bit Encoding: Apogee UV-1000 Super CD Encoder.

Cover Illustration: Paul Klee. Paul Klee, “Doppelzelt / Double Tent,” 1923, 114; 50.6×31.8 cm; water— color and pencil on paper;. Private Collection.
© 1999 VG Bild Kunst Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Art Director and Cover Design: Anilda Carrasquillo.

Publishers (Adams): Boosey & Hawkes, Inc. (ASCAP). Publishers (Glass): G. Schirmer, Inc. (ASCAP).

© 1999 Telarc



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