October 5, 2009 – 4:03 am

Variations on a theme remembered as repetitive minimalism with a strong dose of melody. That’s Philip Glass.

Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.

Violin Concerto/Symphony No. 7 [No label, 1CD]

Live at BBC Proms 37, Royal Albert Hall, London, UK, August 12, 2009. A BBC stereo broadcast.

The Guardian reported that “A stentorian booer poured out his contempt for Philip Glass as the composer walked on to the stage at the Albert Hall last week (Proms 37), a lone voice raised in raucous objection amid the ritual adulation that greeted the UK premiere of Glass’s seventh symphony.” Apparently, the booer was not alone. The Guardian’s writer followed with “I think he had a point.”

Philip Glass has been put on a petri dish since rock journalist Ian MacDonald sliced every which way to reveal his inner core in The People’s Music (2003). MacDonald describes his new age-y music as “unanimously flat, streamlined, kaleidoscopic and benignly impersonal”.

Yet Glass won’t go away. He has his supporters. Glass is prolific, writing soundtracks, symphonies, pop culture albums and even attempting an opera. He is habitually described as “minimalist” although very “melodic”, hence his appeal. Or in rockspeak, it’s safe music.

This is the first BBC Proms ever devoted exclusively to Philip Glass’s music. On offer is his 1987 Violin Concerto played by Gidon Kremer and the UK premiere of his 2004 “Toltec Symphony” described by The Guardian as an “unintelligible voice, intoning ancient Mexican words whose meaning has long since been lost”.

And one final shot from The Guardian: “No one can doubt the sincerity of this meticulously ordered and beautifully crafted music, but the constant repetition, the layering of pattern on pattern, the obsessional quality of the writing all tips over into tedium too often to be truly rewarding.” Or in rockspeak, the music is locked in the same groove.

But that hasn’t made him unpopular. On the contrary. A look at the wikipedia entry for Glass shows a veritable who’s who in the entertainment world whom he is linked with. The man must have quite a sizable A-list rolodex. Minimalist?

Thanks to [email protected] for sharing this show.
- The Savage Hippo

Note: Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (these are high quality MP3s - sample rate of 192 kbps). As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released on CD.

Due to the size of some of the files, please be very patient when downloading the tracks. It could be that the server was very busy. Please try again later. Kindly email us at [email protected] if you encounter persistent problems downloading the files.

Philip Glass Violin Concerto (23 mins)
Track 01. I 104-120 (10.5MB)
Track 02. II c108 (16.7MB)
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Track 03. III Coda-Poco-Meno (14.6MB)

Philip Glass Symphony No.7 ‘A Toltec Symphony’ (UK premiere) (36 mins)
Track 04. I The Corn (14.7MB)
Track 05. II The Hikuri (Sacred Root) (14.2MB)
Track 06. III The Blue Deer (21.7MB - visit the html page to download the track)

The Performers:
Gidon Kremer violin
BBC Symphony Chorus
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Dennis Russell Davies conductor

Dennis Russell Davies Performs Philip Glass released in 2004 showcases The Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, commissioned by the Tirol Tourist Board of Austria. The second piece on this album is Passages, a collaboration with Ravi Shankar. Buy it here.

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