Now Available - Advance single DREAMING AWAKE from Paul Barnes forthcoming album NEW GENERATIONS
Paul Barnes's new double album NEW GENERATIONS will be available in November on Orange Mountain Music. In celebration of that release as well as Barnes's recital on Oct.4 in Chicago, OMM proudly releases Barnes's powerful reading of Philip Glass's DREAMING AWAKE (2003). The piece was composed for and recorded by Glass in 2003 as a private fundraiser forJewel Heart, and that recording was never to be commercially available or recorded again by Glass.
In 2015-16, Paul Barnes celebrates two decades of collaboration with Philip Glass. Glass composed his Second Piano Concerto for Barnes and NEW GENERATIONS represents the fourth album which Barnes has release with OMM including the much heralded album of piano transcriptions from Glass's operas ORPHEE SUITE, CONCERTO PROJECT VOL.2 (which features Piano Concerto No.2) and The American Virtuoso which focuses on the tradition of virtuoso piano music written by American composers.
Northridge, California - site of the West Coast premiere of Glass's Second Symphony in 2009
In Scott Hick's 2007 documentary "Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts" one of the questions put to Glass is why he was he premiering his new major work "Waiting for the Barbarians" in the small city of Erfurt Germany, population 200,000. Glass responded with a laugh that he chose Erfurt because they were the ones who wanted to do it! Not Berlin and not Paris.
This is a common refrain in art. Most people assume that artists of all kinds can do whatever they want want. However the realities of being able to do certain things with certain people in certain places are actually what makes the world of music very interesting.
As I profiled last week, the city of Linz has become a creative hotbed for Glass over the past 13 years largely because of one devoted champion of his work: Dennis Russell Davies. We see this all over the world of classical music. James Levine was a big proponent of the music of Elliot Carter for the years he was with the Boston Symphony. Robert Spano has supported the work of Osvaldo Golijov, etc. Occasionally over time you start to see the trend transcend individuals and become part of a cultural fabric of a place. While Boston never became a "Carter" city, it is certainly a city which supports the music of Stravinsky and Bartok thanks to the efforts of the conductor of the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky. Seattle Symphony, under Gerard Schwarz, embraced the tradition of playing the music of Hovhaness and Diamond. It'll be interesting to see then, when Davies leaves Linz after his appointment ends whether Glass's music will continue to have a presence there.
What got me thinking about this subject of music and its laying down roots in a certain place were two events. The first occurred in 2009 when I noticed a performance of Glass's Symphony No.2 happening at the University of California at Northridge. While I knew No.2 hadn't been performed often after its 1994 premiere at BAM and its UK premiere in London, it was still a surprise to me that this major work was having its West Coast premiere with the UCAL Northridge (pop.27,500) Symphony Orchestra. Why Northridge? Because they were the ones who wanted to do it!
This type of thing happens all the time. Next month Glass's Toltec Symphony will have its premiere under Maestro Paul Phillips and the Pioneer Valley Symphony in the Greenfield High School auditorium in the small town of Greenfield Massachusetts, population 17,500. Make no mistake, this is a major expensive undertaking for such a place. Those endeavoring spirits who choose to venture outside their own comfort zone (and often that of the audience , as well) are brave souls and are doing more for their audiences than the audience itself could ever know. The irony is that the orchestras who are most well equipped to take risks (if you even view performing something like Glass's music as a risk), those have the most money tend to have the most conservative tastes. They prefer to engage of endless performances of "the masters" to dwindling audiences all the while paying lip-service to wanting to find new young audiences. The smaller orchestras, often performing high-wire acts of ingenuity just to survive, often have the most courage toward innovative and interesting programming meanwhile needing to distinguish themselves from all the other well-financed orchestras who do almost nothing but perform the 50 tried-and-true masterpieces.
Dennis Russell Davies touched on this subject over the weekend in the Irish Times: "I think it’s so important that the symphony orchestras, all of them, not listen to boards of directors who are worried about tickets selling, and continue to cultivate composers. If the composers don’t have an orchestra to write for, they won’t write for them any more."
Those who follow me on Twitter might know that last week, over two days I listened to the entirety of the Glass Symphony cycle. To think that most of that music would have never been written without Davies's urging makes me extremely grateful to him. Glass was extremely lucky to encounter a champion like Davies. As such, the tradition of performing Philip Glass's music has followed Davies from Bonn and Stuttgart to Salzburg, Vienna, Linz and Basel. Carl St.Clair, another Glass advocate has devoted his life to classical music in Orange County where Glass's intensely personal "Passion of Ramakrishna" has had two runs of performances in 2006 and again in 2011. The only other orchestra to take on this fine piece was its co-commissioner, the enterprising Nashville Symphony Orchestra (again under St.Clair). Someone on the outside could easier ask, "Why Costa Mesa, CA?" Because that's where St.Clair was and he wanted to do it! And to date no one in New York or London, Paris or Berlin has wanted to do it. All the more kudos should go to St.Clair and the audiences in Orange County who embraced the piece each time.
So it's very interesting to see how these things evolve. Glass has done three operas in Cambridge Massachusetts at the American Repertory Theatre (The Juniper Tree, Orphée, and Sound of a Voice). By and large, with the exception of the Los Angeles Philharmonic his symphonic work has been ignored by major American orchestras while finding a consistent audience elsewhere. Seattle saw Satyagraha in the 1980s as did Chicago, but only smaller Glass operas have been staged in those places since. Meanwhile, good notices and enthusiastic crowds could be found at productions of Orphée in Cooperstown, Norfolk Virginia, and Portland Oregon.
I used to have a feeling, as a fan, of wishing that my cultural institutions would take the plunge and perform Glass's music. At this point I have been to probably hundreds of concerts of Glass's music from a housing project in Poland to bars in Brooklyn and I have yet to see his music fall flat in front of an audience. While there's always ample opportunity to hear Glass's music in New York, it's not always the case in the major American and international capitals. As a Glass fan attending a show, you are probably likely to find yourself in Columbia Maryland or Kutztown Pennsylvania as you are Chicago or Houston. In general, it must be said that there has been intense interest in the music now and it seems to continue to grow. Inasmuch, I see all this activity as a fortunate result of a grassroots campaign by Glass fans around the world.
Glass Notes publishes an update every week on Mondays.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to go to Linz Austria for the weekend for the city's annual Ars Electronica Festival which also served as the opening event of the Bruckner Orchester's season.
I first became aware of the orchestra in recordings of the work of Korngold under Caspar Richter. This orchestra came into the realm of Glass lovers shortly after 2002 when Dennis Russell Davies became its music director, a post he still holds. I recall the premiere of Glass's Sixth Symphony at Carnegie Hall on the occasion of Glass's 65th birthday and reading that the piece was co-commissioned by this esteemed orchestra where it would soon have its European premiere.
My Hotel Room am Domplatz
Three years later and in 2005 the Bruckner Orchester embarked on its first tour of the United States. It began the tour with the world premiere of Glass's Eighth Symphony, paired with the Sixth, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The world premiere of the Eighth Symphony was overwhelming for me (skip to minute 17:00). It was that power that a great artist has to occasionally knock you over. In a very real way that piece could have only been written by Glass at that time, at that moment in history, for that conductor, and for that ensemble. Indeed, this became more clear to me when the orchestra performed the Sixth Symphony on the second half of the program that I became aware that it too was one of Glass's finest pieces. I did not at all walk away from the premiere performance of Plutonian Ode in 2002 with that impression despite that fact that it was the same conductor, the same soloist, and the same piece of music on the music stands. It was the orchestra that to me, made all the difference.
To put it simply this was a first rate orchestra, an organic whole, that performed Glass's music better than anyone other group perhaps with the exception of the Philip Glass Ensemble at its zenith. For the better part of two decades Glass had been using the orchestra as his principal means of expression and this orchestra dove into the music with enthusiasm and ability. Gone were the days of ideology and stodginess from the musical establishment. This was an orchestra which loved playing this music and it showed, the fact that it was not an American orchestra mattered little.
Symphony No.8 was recorded in my native commonwealth at Mechanic's Hall in Worcester Massachusetts immediately after the premiere at BAM and before the orchestra went on with the rest of its tour. The recording of both of those symphonies further cemented my crush on the ensemble as did its future visits to New York City. I didn't have to wait long to hear the group play "other" music was when they paired Korngold's Violin Concerto (one of my favorites) with Renaud Capucon with Bruckner's Eighth Symphony (another one of my favorites!) shortly after the Brooklyn concerts at Avery Fisher Hall in 2005. This represented the group's core repertoire direct from its 'wheelhouse.' It was a revelation.
It's one thing to hear a great orchestra comprised of great international players, but it's quite another thing to hear a great group from the land where the orchestra itself was born playing music of its own tradition. It was a fantastic performance. Four years later in 2009 the BOL came back to New York and performed Bruckner's Fourth Symphony with Glass Violin Concerto. At that time in November 2009 we didn't yet refer to that piece as "Violin Concerto No.1" as the premiere of Violin Concerto No.2 was still a few weeks away. On that same tour the group returned to BAM for a triumphant concert performance of Glass's opera Kepler which had been commissioned by the Landestheater Linz where the BOL is the house orchestra.
Furthermore the group then rescued Glass's Seventh Symphony from obscurity by performing its European premiere on New Year's Day 2009 in a revised version and went on to commission and premiere the Ninth Symphony and record the Tenth. There has been no other ensemble with such consistent dedication to the music of Philip Glass in history. It's naturally largely due to its music director, but the orchestra itself appeared very happy to be performing this music.
So after such a long period I greatly relished the chance to see the orchestra in its home environment. Linz is a wonderful city. About the size of Burlington Vermont, it's absolutely astounding that such a small place could support such a fine orchestra or, as it recently did, build a brand new $236 million opera house. On this occasion of the Ars Electronica Festival the orchestra was performing in "Post City," an abandoned postal distribution center. The festival had filled every corner of this industrial building with interesting installations and different forms of art.
I arrived on Saturday afternoon and I was treated to the first of two weekend performances of Maki Namekawa performing selected Glass piano etudes live to projection by Gerfried Stocker. The "Big Concert" with the Bruckner Orchestra Linz on Sunday featured music by Chen Yi, Aaron Copland, and Elliot Goldenthal with the orchestra seated on a train platform deep in the belly of this building with six large projectors broadcasting animated images inspired by the music. It was a rousing and unique experience more akin to what you imagine happening in industrial ruins in a place like New York rather than a quaint European town. All through this, the orchestra was fantastic. The sections all played as one and the percussion was incredibly tasteful.
The backdrop to my trip was the migrant crisis in Europe and the dozens of migrants who died in the back of a truck when attempting to get to Western Europe. One wonders about the future and priority of such cultural enterprises in modern times. I was "stuck" in Linz an extra day when there was a complication with the airline. Not only was I not about to complain, but I had time for a guided tour of the opera house (where I got to meet Robert Wilson who was in town directing his production of Verdi's La Traviata) and that last night we had a wonderful late meal with Namekawa at a castle overlooking the city from a hill where one could take in the entire city. I was able to think about the city's history and how its culture is one main reason why people want to come here.
It's the city where Anton Bruckner was from and indeed that great composer is buried right nearby at Sankt Florian. It's also the city where Adolf Hitler was born. It's also the city that showed more economic and institutional support to the artistic vision of Philip Glass, a foreigner, than any other place on earth.
Perhaps 50 or 100 years in the future it will be the place where lovers of Philip Glass's music will go to see a site along the Danube and say "That's where the Ninth Symphony was premiered" or "That's the residence where Glass composed sections of Kepler." Outside of New York I can think of no other more relevant artistic home for the music of Philip Glass.
The interior of the new opera house, the Musiktheater am Volksgarten, where Glass's opera The Lost opened the house in 2013.
Glass Notes publishes an update every week on Mondays.
In 2006 Don Christensen and I were perusing the 'Philip Glass Recording Archive,' the cornerstone on which Orange Mountain Music was built, and we came upon a 2CD/100 minute highly-produced recording of a children's opera-ballet called "Le Streghe di Venezia" which neither of us had any knowledge.
I was particularly overwhelmed by this discovery of this piece. The opera was also revealed to be a commission from La Scala in Milan, the most prominent opera house in the world. Furthermore, upon auditioning the recording we found the piece to be musically wonderful - a playful delight full of wonder and comedy (Glass writing music for The Ogre is priceless!). How is it possible that no one had ever heard this piece outside of its limited run back in 1995?
"The Witches of Venice" was based on the children's book of the same name by Italian artist Beni Montresor. The La Scala production was designed by Montresor and featured elaborate costumes and choreography. The reason for the highly produced recording, including sound effects, was that the original production was performed live to a recording. In other words, the recording was made expressly for the first production in Italy.
We began our research and found some photos of the production in the photo archive, the original Glass manuscript (essentially composed for the Philip Glass Ensemble instrumentation), the original Monstresor children's book, and the original opera bill from La Scala. Undiscovered gems like these are what we live for. We immediately resolved to create a commercially available recording which embraced as much as possible the intentions of the authors.
Right away we found out was that Beni Montresor had passed away five years before in 2001. So we began to discuss the possibility of this project with his estate. Though with no direct information, I began to speculate that the creation of the premiere of the opera may have been challenging for Glass and Montresor. One insight I have noticed in the world of Philip Glass is that if certain projects are difficult, it sometimes seems like they are filed away in a different part of Glass's mind regardless of the ultimate quality of the project itself. While we were discovering "Witches" to be a little treasure, I don't think Glass had given the piece a second thought since the mid-1990s.
So more materials were unearthed and we began to think about the creation of an album. The first thing we considered was how the piece would be constructed. The sequence of tracks on the album does not correspond necessarily to the sequence that we found in the archive. The 100 minute recording did not really make sense sequentially and we did not have other materials to guide us. We also felt that the piece, at over 100 minutes, probably tested the patience of children (for whom it was intended).
Our starting point was Montresor's book. We obtained permission to use the drawings and commenced a process of adapting and balancing the story in the book with the libretto by Montresor, and the actual music that Glass composed. As you would suspect, a large revision of the piece including re-sequencing, cutting, and adapting material significantly altered the dramaturgy of the whole piece. Glass was very supportive of our efforts to bring the opera to the public "anew" in this way and I thin the end result is a strong piece of theater.
Around the time we were doing this we were contacted by a fellow name Roberto Terribile from the Fondazione Aida in Italy. Terribile was invovled in a retrospective exhibition on Montresor and had interest in taking the OMM version of "Le Streghe" and producing it live on stage with additional dialogue by screenwriter Vincenzo Cerami (Life is Beautiful). The resulting production, specifically designed for children, was played across Italy including at the Auditorium in Rome in 2009.
The opera is very interesting in the Glass catalogue for a numer of reasons. As a composer for children I don't think Glass pops into people's minds very often. With that said, there is a very strong thread of playfulness in many of Glass's pieces. His and Robert Moran's opera "The Juniper Tree" is based on the story by the brothers Grimm is nominally for children (though in truth it might be a little too scary for children!), and his recent pieces ICARUS: At the Edge of Time and LIFE: A Journey Through Time have been very successful in the "family concert" format. Philip Glass loves children, having raised four of them himself (indeed two of his children are still quite young) and the composer embodies a playful childlike love of life which comes to the fore in his personality and many of his works despite his general penchant for big serious subjects like 'social transformation through nonviolence' (Satyagraha) and race relations in America (Appomattox).
In the end I don't know what place these children's pieces take in his overall output. But with this weekend's announcement that "The Witches of Venice" will have its American premiere next summer in Saratoga, we were happy and validated by our efforts to trawl the depths of the Glass recording archive for "Le Streghe di Venezia" would never have seen the light of day otherwise.
It may be hard for some to imagine, but "it wasn't always like this." In the first two weeks of September I see at least seven new releases which are in part or in whole dedicated to the music of Philip Glass.
Among these titles, we have two new releases from Orange Mountain Music including Michael Riesman's new solo piano record "Beauty & The Beast" (1) which is an extended transcription of Glass's music from "La Belle et La Bete." Also from OMM is Massimo Menotti's new album of Minimalist Guitar Music (2) featuring two early masterpieces Two Pages and Music in Similar Motion. Other non-OMM releases include eighth blackbird's recording of Two Pages (3), Nicholas Horvarth's hyperactive version of the etudes (4), Francesco Di Fiore's versions of The Hours and Truman Show (5), the Carducci Quartet's recording of the Fifth String Quartet - the Sextet - and music from Dracula (6), and new remixes based on Brubaker's recent piano album (7).
For long time fans of Philip Glass you might know how welcome this flow of activity is. For more than two decades in the 1980s and 90s, Glass fans would (at best) be given a one album per year trickle from CBS (Sony) and/or Nonesuch. One album! Glass's work ethic represented dozens of albums which simply never got made in the old recording climate. It was really with the advent of the internet when OMM founder Don Christensen saw an emerging market for bootlegs on eBay that the idea of OMM, a label dedicated to Glass and his unreleased music, was born.
In the first few years of OMM, we almost instantly went from one release a year to three or four releases a year. Copyright dictates that the terms of first recordings of works are authorized by the authors. Back in the 1980s when Glass had no other means or hope to record his large-scale works like Akhnaten and Satyagraha without the "major labels," he took what was available to him. Later, in the 1990s when Glass had his own subsidiary label Point Music, which was part of Polygram, he had already more flexibility to do not only the projects which were asked of him, but other projects which were more personal.
The advent of OMM opened the flood gates in more ways that one. And not coincidentally, it happened around the year 2000 at the same time as Glass's sound exploded into the mainstream. The dormant back-catalogue which was deemed unworthy of release by the major labels proved that it was viable in the marketplace. Add to this, in 2013, the majority of the titles financed by Nonesuch reverted back to Glass (and consequently OMM). For all those years, decades of "one release per year" Glass had been composing on average probably enough for three albums a year or more and for a passionate fan-base, this simply was not enough.
After 2001, one record release a year turned into five releases a year. By 2006, five years into OMM, the company was on pace to produce 10 to 15 titles a year. Authors control first recordings of works but second and third recordings fall under what they call "Compulsory Licenses." This means that provided that one obtains and pays for mechanical licenses from the publisher, almost anyone can record a new version of a work - especially when it comes to notated music like Glass's.
Soon there were new versions of symphonies (Marin Alsop on Naxos), new interpretations of string quartets (Smith Quartet on Signum, Carducci Quartet on Naxos). In recent months we've seen 7 or 8 releases of the piano music including already now three or four collections of Glass's newly published piano etudes. We have seen a second recording of the Violin Sonata, a second recording of Violin Concerto No.2...and on and on. In addition to all these new interpretations we also have vinyl reissues of almost all of the Sony titles (Solo Piano, Photographer, etc) as well as classic cult interest titles like Candyman (including 400 available cassettes from One Way Static Records).
Should everything be released? At OMM we decided that that really was not our principle concern (who were we to judge?). Successful releases helped the creation of other new releases. If people found a certain release to be not of interest then that was fine. There seemed really to be no connection or formula for success. A personal disappointment I grappled with for years was that certain things I thought or hoped would do well might not. Then later other albums which I had perhaps less interest in performed very well. In other words, sales had nothing to do with quality. For OMM, sales just represented the load bearing walls of a house that contained the entire creative enterprise of the composer.
So what does this all mean? I honestly don't think you can read too much into it. In the age of streaming - the major labels and streaming services have colluded to create a perception that recorded music is worthless. In fact, the Glass titles that are streaming represent music that to some extent Glass does not control or exercise control over. Regarding vinyl, it a common perception that there is a vinyl bubble, and what sells today for $30 might be difficult to unload tomorrow for $10.
Is all this activity supported by a real market? In other words are there enough Glass fans in the world to consume all of this music and justify the tens of thousands of dollars it takes to create the recordings? Well, that is a more complicated question but to me that the answer is yes. I think the creation of these titles represents on a very real level a basic and healthy interest in the music. New artists are discovering this music, performing it widely, and finding it interesting enough to want to record it. That's the reality.
That kind of reality is the most healthy reality in the world of music. It's right up there with people showing up for your concerts and rowdy energetic applause instead of reserved, obligatory and formal clapping.
For music lovers - a.k.a. "consumers" it is a wonderful situation whereby they not only have a chance to discover the music, but they get to select from a large number of versions of a single piece.
For the composer, with this kind of intense interest in his music in terms of hundreds of performances of a broad sampling of his music over an extended period of time, it can all be translated as a message that sometime over the past 15 years that the music became bigger than him.
Glass Notes publishes an update every week on Monday mornings.
Starting this past spring, I started to toy with the idea of writing a book on Philip Glass. Perhaps it was in response to the excitement of his new book, Words without Music. Or perhaps it was because of what's not written in either of his two books. Glass's first book, Music by Philip Glass was written in the mid-1980s and contains a sort of "how we got here" narrative which I love. At that time, Glass was right in the middle of an incredibly creative period - those ten years right after Einstein on the Beach through the first Violin Concerto when he left Minimalism behind in the pursuit of a thirty year rapprochement with tradition.
Glass second book, Words without Music, covers some of the same ground and in fact only goes up to the death of Allen Ginsberg in 1997 and only covers a decade after the end of Music by Philip Glass. For many of Glass's fans, that totally omits the last two decades of his creative life - some ten operas, ten symphonies, twenty film scores, and much more. Words without Music is also clearly thew work of an older man looking back with a sort of distance between him and the story he was telling. In Music by Philip Glass, Glass still had something to prove, still had very vocal and powerful musical enemies, and Glass did not have the perspective of knowing how it was all going to turn out or what future work lay in front of him.
So both books are very valuable documents from two very different perspectives. But neither book presented the narrative of Philip Glass's career as I see it. So I began to conceive of a story that began with my first exposure to Glass's work in a "Music Appreciation 1827-Present" course through my decade of experience actively working for Glass and on behalf of his catalogue.
Glass has been fully supportive of this idea and because of many extensive interviews that I have conducted with him, I felt I had the raw material to endeavor a trial chapter of a proposed book. Because of timing of OMM releases, the first chapter would be about the Glass symphonies. In more than one interview about his own symphonies, I found Glass actually quite taciturn on the subject of symphonies - not other composer's symphonies or the great masterpieces of the past, only his own. This was not the case when we spoke about theater work, operas, and other projects when Glass's eyes would light up and he would be overflowing with ideas and stories. But on the subject of his own symphonies, I ran into a wall of "Dennis Russell Davies forced me to write symphonies."
So after three interviews over the period of three years on the subject of symphonies my frustration led to a simple path away from the composer and to the conductor, and from the conductor to Glass's other collaborators. If Glass wasn't going to give me in insight I was looking for in his own work, perhaps Davies and the rest of the people with whom Glass has worked would. This immediately led to the bigger revelation of planning a book.
To go straight to the point: I would go straight to the collaborators! Over the course of five decades Glass's collaborators have ranged from major film directors, to conductors, poets, instrumentalists, world music stars...the resources are endless. So I wrote my chapter about symphonies and I will soon be moving on to the next subject and conducting more interviews. Returning to the idea of my own personal subjective narrative about Philip Glass and his music invoked a common phenomenon among many of his collaborators - it seems a lot of people have different ideas about who Glass is as an artist and what his music about, where it comes from, and what effect is has on them and audiences. I also don't intend on leaving it there. After my interview with Davies on the subject of the symphonies, another fascinating thing happened. I asked Davies flat out which symphonies were among his favorites and why. Then I told Glass about his response and asked him the same question. The resulting proxy dialogue is really quite interesting and I look forward to seeing how this process evolves.