Songs from the Trilogy - Music by Philip Glass
I am currently reading Glass’ autobiography, which highlights his travels to different countries and also his education as a composer. I’m finding it a fascinating read, and have dove into more of his music.
This album is comprised of 12 tracks, performed by a number of different ensembles, some include Glass himself in the performances, and the copyrights range from 1979-1987.
In Protest, a chamber orchestra featuring a string texture with winds (NYC Opera Orchestra and Chorus) back a single tenor voice. It’s nice music; it repeats on a number of levels.
In Evening Song, I’m reminded of one of Glass’ pieces for organ on the ECM New Series album Trivium, however this one continues with tenor Douglas Perry with the orchestra.
In Hymn to the Sun, we change productions, but have Paul Esswood (alto). The music isn’t immediately characteristic Glass; the high male voice and a different set of harmonic progressions don’t scream “Ah, another piece by Philip Glass,” but his trademarks are nevertheless there.
In Akhnaten and Nefertiti, Glass sets a duet for Esswood and Milagro Vargas. On the instrumental front, the style, while written for smaller forces, is not already a foreshadow of some of Glass’ film scores.
In Kuru Field of Justice Glass has a nice little lick for tenor and lower strings that speaks to his study of Bach just a bit; it’s a very baroque construction of ostinato with a descending four notes, but it doesn’t stay in the lower strings forever; winds and upper strings take the instrumental line before visiting the original orchestration, but with the addition of a second voice and a secondary line with the woodwinds.
Before this recording, I was not familiar with Glass’ music for opera and plays. This recording served as a good primer on the texture, orchestration, and range of Glass’ earlier successes in these genres.
In Bed, an religious solemnity comes to mind; it’s not the use of organ (it’s not much like a church organ), but rather the voice and progression of harmony. It’s a delicious morsel of music that gets repeated several times.
The two Knee selections from Einstein on the Beach were not successful, for me, at least by themselves.
I can’t say this album is something you ought to go out and buy on merit of the music, as an album, because I don’t think it works very well in concept. But it does, at least, give a good taste of Glass’s early works for the stage. And for that privilege, I enjoyed the survey of these 12 pieces.
I still likely would name his Glassworks recording (CBS Masterworks) as one of my favorites, especially as an earlier release. In more recent years, I have been enjoying the recording featuring his Harpsichord Concerto. Another one worth exploring is the release of String Quartets by the Kronos Quartet.