PHILIP GLASS: Symphony No. 3; Suite fr. “The Hours” – Manitoba Ch. Orch./ Anne Manson/Michael Riesman, piano – Orange Mt. Music

by | May 14, 2013 | Classical CD Reviews

PHILIP GLASS: Symphony No. 3; Suite from “The Hours” (arr. M. Riesman) – Manitoba Chamber Orch./Anne Manson/Michael Riesman, piano – Orange Mt. Music OMM 0086, 48:38 (Distr. Harmonia mundi) ****:

I happen to be a big Philip Glass fan and have followed his music on vinyl, live and on CDs for forty years. So, I like this new recording of the Symphony No. 3 and this arrangement of his film music from the emotionally wrenching Stephen Daldry film, The Hours (after the equally involving novel by Michael Cunningham.)

There is plenty of good music here in what is Glass’s wholly unique swirling, minimalist style that spins raw emotion from the simplest elements.  The only thing about this album that I think should be said, however, is that I find the original renditions of these works – and the original recordings – a tad more compelling.

The third Symphony is probably not Philip Glass’s “heaviest” work, nor is it intended to be. Written for the Wűrth Foundation, this is a string orchestra work revolving mostly around some interesting syncopations and sultry melodies in C; even utilizing a chaconne at one point. The four movement work is catchy and likable, dramatic in places; tranquil in others.  The Symphony No. 2 has a bit more transitional variety and – for sheer bulk – I heartily recommend Glass’s Symphony No. 5. This is a fine piece, performed quite impressively by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, although I do prefer the original with Dennis Russell Davies and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.

As for Michael Riesman’s arrangement of the score to The Hours for piano and string orchestra, this music is nearly perfect. I happen to think this film score is one of Glass’s finest and reflects the sadness and melancholy of the intertwining story lines in this movie so well (Seriously; go rent this film if you have not seen it.) The Riesman arrangement places the piano in a prominent role, of course, and this version is very attractive, indeed. Here again, I do prefer the original soundtrack recording and there is even a solo piano rendition, with Riesman, that I have not heard. This arrangement is very nice and would probably entice anyone to checking out the film; even without any basis for comparison.

I do recommend this recording, especially for people like me who want all Glass albums; but also for those wanting a very nice recording of these two wonderful works on one disc. I just cannot honestly say this takes place of the originals, for me anyway.

—Daniel Coombs