“Phaedra” = PHILIP GLASS: Phaedra (The Non-Mishima Music); Modern Love Waltz; GLASS/MORAN: 21 Orchestrations of Modern Love Waltz – Var. performers – OgreOgress 96kHz/24-bit DVD audio OMM 7007, 114:55 (Distr. by CD Baby), (8/8/13) ***1/2:
Philip Glass wrote the ballet Phaedra in 1984 for a 1986 Dallas Ballet premiere. The work in that form is all but gone, having received little performance interest since. Many listeners are familiar with the 1985 Paul Schrader film, “Mishima”, however, with a score by Glass and based on the troubled and tragic life of post-war Japanese playwright and author Yukio Mishima.
The extracts from Glass’ score to Phaedra heard here are the five “scenes” from the ballet that did not make it into Glass’s adapted film score for “Mishima.” The swirling strings and the para-military, somewhat nervous sounding percussion touches work well, as you would expect. I cannot honestly say that this distillation of Phaedra takes my emotions as well as the “Mishima” soundtrack (featuring the Kronos Quartet) does. That remains one of my favorite works by this composer whose work I have followed for over forty years and love.
The performances here are very fine and it does rather make me want to hear the score to Phaedra in its original entirety but this will appeal the most to those who already know and love the “Mishima” music.
Glass wrote his twelve-minute Modern Love Waltz in 1978 for a staged performance by actress/author/performance artist Constance DeJong. I actually heard this buoyant little work performed on harpsichord in Chicago as part of the “New Music America” festival later that year. The work can also be played on toy piano or solo piano or in versions involving flute, clarinet, vibraphone or harp.
Composer Robert Moran has collaborated with Philip Glass before and, in 1977, was working at Northwestern University when Glass contributed this Modern Love Waltz to Moran’s “The Waltz Project.” Subsequently, Moran got Glass’s permission to orchestrate the original but by using two measure fragments that are repeated an even number of times over Glass’s original piano part. The results are often intriguing but the set as a whole (Glass’s original plus the 21 Moran orchestrations) makes for some true minimalist listening; bordering on the tedious.
This is a DVD-Audio disc which is playable on most DVD players as well as all DVD-Audio players. There is a slight sound quality advantage here that I appreciated but the main advantage is the nearly two hours of listening that can be had on just the one disc. Kudos to OgreOgress for high production values once again.
As for the music and the interest level in this project; I enjoyed it as what I consider yet another in my nearly 100% comprehensive PG collection but I’m a complete fan.
I do not think this is the best thing to go get for one’s first exposure to the music of Philip Glass; there are so many other offerings to turn the uninitiated into a fan. For true Phil Glass aficionados, however, this is a “must have.”