“GLASS Reflections” – Symphony for Eight; Company; Mishima; Facades; 5 Selections from “The Secret Agent;” Akhnaten: Attack and Fall, Funeral of Amenhotep III – Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico/ Elias Arizcuren – Orange Mountain Music 0032, 56:30 ***** [Distr. Harmonia mundi]:
Minimalist Glass may be best known for his smaller works for his own ensemble, but he has written many works for full orchestra. Marin Alsop has chosen two appealing Glass works, and the conductor who soon becomes Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony shepherds her British player to a performance that draws great expression out of the repeated chords and phrases. The Light was inspired by the physicists who mounted an experiment which confirmed the speed of light. The Heroes Symphony was originally a collaboration with Brian Eno, the second one they had done. Its six movements were inspired by aspects of the then-divided city of Berlin, and the work was originally designed for the then-new dance company of American choreographer Twyla Tharp. The first movement is based on a tramping rhythm, and the second – Abdulmajid – has an Arabic theme ornamented by Celeste and percussion. Neuköln opens with tuned percussion and features the strings. The incisive closing V2Schneider seems to have some unexplained connection with the Nazi rocket program – it builds to a resounding climax.
The Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico was founded in 1989 with the support of Mstislav Rostropovich and Yo-Yo Ma, and has a long list of premieres to its credit. I’ve long been personally attracted to same-instrument aggregations, and for me the sounds of the eight cellos seem to be perfectly attuned to the “similar but different” sounds of Philip Glass’ music. After hearing the Cello Octet for the first time, Glass himself volunteered to write a piece for them, but with his busy schedule they realized that might take some time, and instead suggested they present an evening of arrangements of his music that they had selected. There is a wide cross-section of his music represented here, including excerpts from his Third Symphony, two of this string quartets, his opera Akhnaten, and one of his very effective soundtrack scores. The finale of the film score adds a synthesizer to the cello ensemble, and the two Akhnaten selections involve seven voices, percussion, and electronics as well.
Yo-Yo Ma said of the octet’s leader Elias Anizcuren, that he “is a true visionary who has achieved something absolutely unique with this group.”
– John Sunier