GLASS: The Concerto Project Vol. III = Concerto Grosso; Concerto for Saxophone Quartet – Beethoven Orchester Bonn/Dennis Russell Davies (Con. Grosso); Rascher Saxophone Quartet – Orange Mountain 0042 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
GLASS: Symphony No. 7 “Toltec” – Bruckner Orchester Linz/Dennis Russell Davies – Orange Mountain 0061, 34.7 min. [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
The Concerto Grosso is from a live recording of 1993. Each of its three movements is written for a specific group of instruments – namely the winds, brass and then strings. The work was commissioned by the City of Bonn and may remind Glass fans of his first three symphonies. The string section is especially deployed in interesting ways.
There are many new works for saxophone quartet as this type of ensemble has gained in popularity around the world. However, many sound to my ears excessively harsh and atonal, like loft jazz. This one from Glass is tuneful, playful and jazzy. The whole thing works together in a most enjoyable manner. The 1995 work was created as both a stand alone sax quartet as well as a quartet concerto with orchestra. Each of its four movements has a different one of the saxes doing its own little dance, while the other three sort of provide the orchestral backing. As Glass states, “They are tooting away the whole time.”
The Toltec Symphony was a commission for the National Symphony Orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin, and was recorded in 2008. It is Glass’ personal homage to the Indigenous cultures of Mexico and how they can contribute to human development in modern times. The Toltecs developed agriculture, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, art and other areas and influenced all of Mesoamerica, including the Mayans. They were equally devoted to science and spiritual development. Their culture had a sacred relationship with nature.
One group of indigenous people still living in the northern part of Mexico are the Wirrarika, whom Glass feels are the native peoples best preserving the ancient practices of the Toltec. The three symphony movements are inspired by the sacred trinity of the Wirrarika: Corn, Hikuri (a sacred root), and the Blue Deer (a book of knowledge in which every person’s life meaning is written).
— John Sunier
An excellent DG debut!