In one of the most talked-about classical music events of 2019, on May 9 the Southbank Centre in London presents the trilogy of Bowie symphonies by Philip Glass, including the European premiere of Symphony No. 12 ‘Lodger’. This is the first time that all three pieces - No. 1 ‘Low’ (1992), No. 4 ‘Heroes’ (1996) and No. 12 ‘Lodger’ (2018) - have been heard together in a single concert. They will be performed by London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Hugh Brunt and Robert Ames.
The ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’ symphonies are among the most widely-celebrated of Glass’s concert pieces and both have been recorded multiple times. In each one Glass takes themes from David Bowie’s ‘Berlin trilogy’ of albums, produced by Brian Eno and released between 1977 and 1979, using this found musical material as the basis for his own work.
Now, after over 20 years, the symphonic trilogy has is finally complete with the arrival of Symphony No. 12 ‘Lodger’, which was premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by John Adams at Walt Disney Concert Hall earlier this year. In this symphony the composer has taken a different approach, for the first time incorporating Bowie’s lyrics with a vocal part written for the Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo, with whom Glass worked in the creation of Ifè: Three Yorùbá Songs in 2013.
“Glass has over and over reimagined opera, film music, concerto and ballet, to say nothing of the symphony. He’s seemingly done it again. “Lodger” is a stupendous symphony. It adds a new dimension to symphonic thought by expansively expounding on the essence of the lyrics written by Bowie and Brian Eno that the music of the 1979 album only hints at.”
Mark Swed, LA Times 11 January 2019
Symphony No. 12 ‘Lodger’ was commissioned by Dresdner Philharmonie, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Southbank Centre London, and L‘Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Further performances will take place with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France conducted by Krzysztof Urbanski at Maison de le Radio, Paris, on October 25 and the Dresdner Philharmonie conducted by Dennis Russell Davies at PhilharmonieKulturpalast, Dresden, on November 2 and Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, on November 6.
Philip Glass - The Bowie Symphonies
Symphony No. 1 ‘Low’
Symphony No. 4 ‘Heroes’
Symphony No. 12 ‘Lodger’ (European premiere)*
London Contemporary Orchestra
Hugh Brunt, conductor
Robert Ames, conductor*
James McVinnie, organ
Angélique Kidjo, singer*
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, LondonMay 9 2019