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Philip Glass
1937 -
United States of America, MD
Picture
Ph. Glass
Philip Glass (31/01/1937), an American composer, from Baltimore. Along with being perhaps the best-known contemporary classical composer, Glass is also one of the most intensely prolific--almost frighteningly so. Scarcely a season seems to pass without a major premiere--and, as Glass himself probably would be the first to admit, this factory level of productivity can lead to disappointingly uneven results. His music in particular requires an effort to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Source:www.amazon.com
Symphony No.5 (Requiem, Bardo, Nirmanakaya)
Period:Modernism
Composed in:1999
Musical form:free
Text/libretto:texts from the Bible, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Koran, Hindu scriptures, Rumi, a Bulu creation story, etc.
Duration:ca.100'
Label(s):Nonesuch 79618-2
A requiem for 5 soloists, chorus, children's chorus & orchestra.
Along with being perhaps the best-known contemporary classical composer, Philip Glass is also one of the most intensely prolific--almost frighteningly so. Scarcely a season seems to pass without a major premiere--and, as Glass himself probably would be the first to admit, this factory level of productivity can lead to disappointingly uneven results. His music in particular requires an effort to separate the wheat from the chaff. The Symphony No. 5 began life as a commission from the Salzburg Festival to celebrate the new millennium. Glass took the occasion to reflect on the "process of global evolution," and culled texts from the gamut of world religions and cultures; these are set for various combinations of five vocal soloists, large chorus, and children's choir in a 12-movement work that lasts nearly 100 minutes--all of which is scored with a brilliant orchestral palette. The symphony's subtitle ("Requiem, Bardo, Nirmanakaya"), with its mix of Western and Buddhist terms, reflects Glass's multicultural ambitions, as well as the work's tripartite passage: from the past and stories of creation through consideration of death and a state of expectation to enlightened rebirth in the future. Together with familiar Bible verses are texts from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Koran, Hindu scriptures, Rumi, a Bulu creation story, and much more.
It all could have made for an embarrassingly muddled, New Agey smorgasbord. Actually, however, it's one of the more thoroughly convincing works that Glass has created; it builds bit by bit, mosaic by mosaic, in a cumulative effect that becomes especially powerful in the stark contrasts of the final movements, which include a depiction of paradise that calls to mind the Klimt-like heaven of Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand. Glass returns to some of the motifs from the CIVIL warS project, and the orchestral scope and vocal styling recall the grandiloquence of that period. But there's an even greater sense of play with timbral coloring, and a notable preoccupation with the quieter regions of the dynamic spectrum, as well as fascinating moments of harmonic complexity. Glass veteran Dennis Russell Davies led the Symphony's 1999 world premiere, and manages to maintain a similar level of excitement in the studio; he gives the score a sense of expanse and space to unfold, and masterfully aligns Glass's various layerings of musical forces. For all of the inevitable comparisons that might be made with that touchstone of humanistic choral symphonies, the Symphony No. 5 suggests not so much a contemporary take on Beethoven's Ninth as his Missa Solemnis--a cosmic testament that's full of gestures both grand and intimate. --
Author:Thomas May