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From The Philip Glass Recording Archive Vol 2

Release Date: 09/11/2007 
Label:  Orange Mountain Music   Catalog #: 47   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Philip Glass
Conductor:  Dennis Russell DaviesJoseph Franklin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Radio Symphony OrchestraRelâche
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GLASS Days and Nights in Rocinha. 1 Persephone 2 Dennis Russell Davies, cond; 1 Vienna RSO; 1 Joseph Franklin, cond; 2 Relache Ens 2 ORANGE MOUNTAIN 47 (49:54) Live: Vienna 2/8/1998 1

This Read more is the second in a series of issues from the Philip Glass Archive, in this case documenting his orchestral work.

Dating from 1993, Persephone began its life as a score for a Robert Wilson theatrical event based on T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land . A scene in that poem makes allusion to the ancient Greek myth of Persephone; the Eliot connection also possibly explains why the fourth movement of this short suite is entitled “Cocktail Party.” The first performance took place in Sicily in a vast granary; the audience was provided with folding stools that had to be carried from one part of the performance space to another. In these peripatetic circumstances, Glass’s music (for small choir and chamber orchestra) provided a unifying factor, so it is understandable that each of the five short movements in this selection sounds very much like the others. While the wordless voices recall Glass’s operas, and the accompanying figures exude the same minimalist urgency (with predominantly minor tonalities), this score basically seems to be Glass-by-the-numbers. No doubt very effective in the theatrical context, it is less than engaging as pure music. I thought the strongest movement was the final one, “Perceval,” which is also the simplest, calling to mind the pared-down music written for the great Greek tragedies by Carl Orff (in many ways a forefather of the minimalist esthetic).

Days and Nights in Rocinha , by contrast, is a 23-minute tone poem for full orchestra. It was composed for Glass’s longtime champion Dennis Russell Davies and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1998: this recording is of the work’s premiere performance. The piece is a tribute to the Rocinha neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro (home of a renowned samba school); hence the distinctly Latin/Hispanic bent to its melodic lines and chromatic harmonic progressions. The piece bears a superficial resemblance to Ravel’s Bolero , in that it consists of a (more or less) repeated theme over a constant rhythmic ostinato with varying orchestration. Days and Nights in Rocinha is more relaxed, however, with subtle changes from time to time to the basic 3+3+2+2+2+2 meter of the accompanying figure. Unlike Bolero , it does not build implacably to a climax. That, as we know, is not the minimalist way; I have finally stopped expecting it to happen! There are, however, a number of dynamic contrasts, mostly in the final section, which at least suggest a kind of implicit structural plan. A gentle close brings mysterious, nocturnal chords from the horns and soft strokes on the tam-tam.

Glass’s orchestration in this work is among his best. His use of percussion in particular is subtle and telling. The melodic and harmonic aspects of the work I find tantalizing, and I’m delighted to report the entire piece is mercifully free of triads in triplets. One of the disadvantages of Glass’s music, built as it is on repetition, is that too often it is only heard in all-Glass programs. Days and Nights in Rocinha would impress in a mixed orchestral selection. Adventurous programmers—if they still exist—should give it a try.

Russell Davies and the Vienna orchestra produce a sensitive, nuanced reading, and the recording quality is all it needs to be. In fact, I had no idea this was recorded live until I read the information on the cover.

To be blunt, timing on this CD is stingy—a common feature of issues from Orange Mountain. Nevertheless, it vies for my top Glass recommendation on the strength of Days and Nights in Rocinha.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

Days and Nights in Rocinha by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Dennis Russell Davies
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Persephone by Philip Glass
Conductor:  Joseph Franklin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Relâche
Period: 20th Century 

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