Minimal: Glass at 75 (Part II)

Minimal: Glass at 75 (Part II)
© Jim Ball
In an apt celebration of an extremely prosperous career, Glasgow’s Concert Halls’ series ‘Minimal’ is holding an event honouring the music of Philip Glass on his 75th birthday.

Glass at 75 (Part II) consists of three concerts held on the 24th-26th May. The first (held in City Halls) sees the performance of Glass’s Symphony No. 6, otherwise titled Plutonium Ode. The text, written in 1978, is taken from a poem by Alan Ginsberg, a topical outcry against nuclear contamination. Glass brings this issue back into the public eye in the form of a Symphony which was commissioned on his 65th birthday. Beginning with a foreboding ostinato in the bass strings, the ensemble is gradually whipped up into a confused frenzy of both hatred and worship of this new all-powerful element, Plutonium; before returning in the third movement to Glass’s signature use of reserved, repeated third intervals and ostinatos while the libretto implores us to spread its warning. This is an extremely moving piece of music with a powerful message.

Dracula, performed here by the Kronos Quartet, was commissioned in 1998 to be performed by the same ensemble to accompany the 1931 film Dracula (dir. Todd Browning). This score perfectly exemplifies Glass’s Minimalist style, with repetitive exchanges between chords and phrases acting as a tension-building device for the film. Quietly hinting at a hidden terror, with nods to Glass’s previous compositions (for example to Metamorphoses (1988) at the beginning of The Crypt), this is a captivatingly beautiful work. Featuring the world-renowned Kronos Quartet, this concert promises to be a blissful experience for both Minimalist aficionados and newcomers to the genre.

The third concert, ‘Philip Glass in Recital’, accumulates the pieces Etudes No. 2 and 10, Partita for Solo Violin, Metamorphoses Nos. 2, 3 and 4, Music from The Screens for Piano and Violin, and Pendulum (written for the American Civil Liberties Union). This is an eclectic selection of some of Glass’s shorter works, both old and new, which spans a large range of genres; from the beautifully sonorous and simple Etude No. 2 to the exotic Africa-inspired pieces from The Screens.

With such a huge variety of Glass’s works, Glass at 75 (Part II) is an absolute must-see for both tenured Glass fans and those wishing to discover the beautiful underlying complexity of Minimalism. Tickets for Glass at 75, as well as the rest of the Minimal series (which includes works by Riley, Reich, and a further work by Glass, Einstein on the Beach), can be purchased on the Glasgow’s Concert Halls website.

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