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Reflections- Glass / Arizcuren, Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico


Release Date: 10/10/2006 
Label:  Orange Mountain Music   Catalog #: 32   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Philip Glass
Performer:  Robert PutowskiJeroen den HerderJean Paul van SpaendonkBert Visser,   ... 
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 57 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Highlights both the compositional prowess of Glass and the virtuosity of the players.

Philip Glass is a composer whose body of work readily lends itself to re-orchestration. In fact, many of his early works were written with intentionally vague orchestrations to allow for greater ease in performance. That said, it's doubtful that Glass himself would have thought that works written for full orchestra, and supplemented with synthesizers, would be as easily suited to an ensemble consisting of eight cellos, occasionally supplemented with vocalists. However, as the liner-notes indicate, Glass was so impressed with Cello Octet Conjunto Iberico's rendition of his Symphony III, movement 3, that he gave them his blessing to dive
Read more into his catalog and pluck anything from his works for their performance. The results are presented here.

The first work, titled here Symphony for Eight, is the original work that impressed Glass so much. It is easy to discern why Glass would have been so interested in having the octet re-imagine his other works. This version carries both the weight and intimacy of the original, and is performed flawlessly.

The next track, String Quartet No. 2 from Company, the play by Samuel Beckett, is somber and serious. The music was composed to reflect Beckett's words of an old man looking back on his life and finding loneliness. The forlorn sound of the cello could not be better suited to this mood. The results are immensely moving.

The next several works are from Glass's compositions as a composer of film scores. This has been a fertile ground for the composer throughout his career, and many of these works are among his most recognizable. Thus it makes sense that this would be a good source for many of the musical selections here.

String Quartet No. 3, Mishima, is culled from the Paul Schrader film about the controversial Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. Glass then collapsed portions of the score into a string quartet that could be performed as a stand-alone work. Here Conjunto Iberico performs the 3rd and 4th movements of that work, with many of the harmonizations reminiscent of the film score owing to the greater number of players at their disposal. The result is at least on par with the original if not superior.

Facades is originally from Koyaanisqati, and originally scored for an orchestral string section and two saxophones. The rendition here is well done, though the lack of timbre differentiation between the winds and strings is missed. This is such a slowly developing work that here it feels as if it lacks something without timbre shifts. That said, it's still impressively performed. It simply is not as strong an arrangement as it would be with something else to bring out the melodic lines.

There are then five selections from the 1995 film The Secret Agent performed by eight cellos and a synthesizer. Unlike the previous tracks this music was not first redacted into a single work that would then be performed as a cohesive unit. Instead these are short works that all are capable of standing on their own, but were originally composed to accompany the action in the film. There are moments where this works incredibly well, such as the short work The Blood on the Stairs or Winnie Goes to Sea. The strings carry most of the music, and the synthesized portions are perfectly placed to highlight the mood of the work and offer contrast. In other places however, such as the movement "Emigration", the synthesizer seems more intrusive when it enters. It does lend more of a feeling of a full orchestra or a film, but as a stand-alone work it is less successful here.

The final two pieces are taken from Glass's opera Akhnaten, and they are masterfully arranged and performed. Singers are introduced to lend more of a flavor of the original operatic work. Really the only thing "missing" is the emphasis and energy that the low brass lends at times. The cello simply doesn't convey the energy of the bass trombone. This is a minor issue. A listener who was not already intimately familiar with the works would probably never miss the brass, especially with the singers providing such an energetic and solid performance. Additionally the percussion remains intact in these recordings, though there are no percussionists credited in the liner-notes. Musically this is certainly a boon. Attack and Fall without the driving percussion would certainly lack the energy of the original instrumentation. All told those who know Akhnaten well will probably find other recordings more to their liking, but these are certainly well performed and a credit to the cello octet.

Overall this is a very good, though non-essential, collection of Philip Glass's works performed by one of the most talented collectives of cellists on the planet. It is certainly a well performed and enjoyable listening experience. The arrangements have managed to hold onto the most attractive parts of Glass's originals. There are even points where these arrangements may be superior to the originals, such as in Company and Mishima. In other places the experiment is less successful, though not in any way sub-par. If nothing else, it highlights both the compositional prowess of Glass and the virtuosity of the players of the Cello Octet Conjunto Iberico. Really, what more could one ask for in a recording?

-- Patrick Gary, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 3: 3rd movement by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 9 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Notes: This arrangement is titled "Symphony for Eight."
Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 
2. Quartet for Strings no 2 "Company": 1st movement by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1983; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 4 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Quartet for Strings no 2 "Company": 2nd movement."
Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 
3. Quartet for Strings no 2 "Company": 2nd movement by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1983; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 4 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Quartet for Strings no 2 "Company": 1st movement."
Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 
4. Quartet for Strings no 3 "Mishima": 3rd movement, Grandmother and Kimitake by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 4 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Quartet for Strings no 3 "Mishima": 4th movement."
Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 
5. Quartet for Strings no 3 "Mishima": 4th movement, 1962: Body Building by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 4 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is part of a medley which also includes "Quartet for Strings no 3 "Mishima": 3rd movement."
Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 
6. Facades by Philip Glass
Performer:  Robert Putowski (Cello), Jeroen den Herder (Cello)
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1981; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 8 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 
7. The Secret Agent: The secret agent by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 4 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 
8. The Secret Agent: Blood on the stairs by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 1 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 
9. The Secret Agent: Emigration by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 1 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 
10. The Secret Agent: Winnie goes to sea by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 2 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 
11. The Secret Agent: The secret agent ending by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 2 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 
12. Akhnaten: Attack and Fall by Philip Glass
Performer:  Jean Paul van Spaendonk (Voice), Bert Visser (Voice), Robert Kops (Voice),
Martijn de Graaf Bierbrouwer (Voice), Ronald Aijtink (Voice), Ilona Stokvis (Voice),
Astrid Lammers (Voice)
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1983; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 8 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Nico Ravenstijn; Elias Arizcuren. 
13. Akhnaten: Funeral by Philip Glass
Performer:  Bert Visser (Voice), Ronald Aijtink (Voice), Robert Kops (Voice),
Martijn de Graaf Bierbrouwer (Voice), Ilona Stokvis (Voice), Astrid Lammers (Voice),
Jean Paul van Spaendonk (Voice)
Conductor:  Elias Arizcuren
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conjunto Iberico Cello Octet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1983; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/2001 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 9 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Notes: Arrangers: Elias Arizcuren; Nico Ravenstijn. 

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