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Philip Glass: Symphony No. 7 "Toltec"

Bruckner Orchester Linz & Dennis Russell Davies

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Album Review

It might be a surprise that the music of Philip Glass has generally spread farther beyond the U.S. than those of the other first-wave minimalists: Steve Reich in particular seemed more congenial to those of an avant-garde frame of mind. But the sheer innovative spirit of Glass' music, its tendency to define its own sound worlds, seems to have carried it confidently into its second half-century, and Glass champion Dennis Russell Davies, now conductor of the Basel Symphony Orchestra, has had little trouble turning it into an ensemble versed in Glass' ways. The Symphony No. 1 ("Low") is so called because it is based on David Bowie's album of the same name; the British composer and producer Brian Eno had a hand in the album and is also credited in the subtitle of Glass' work. (The second movement, "Some Are," is not a track from the original Bowie album but was recorded at the same time and eventually issued as a bonus track; Bowie later incorporated this movement in turn on the album All Saints.) This was Glass' first symphony, and it's almost as if using popular tunes, albeit rather minimalist ones, allowed him to make the leap to full-scale orchestral dimensions; it stretched his musical language slightly. In so doing, the work built bridges between the popular and concert spheres that by now are commonplace, but were not so in 1992, when the piece was composed. This is only the second recording of the Symphony No. 1. The first was also conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, but this version, under the supervision of Glass' own Orange Mountain Music label, is closer to the state of the art. Recommended for Glass fans.

Customer Reviews

I have been waiting for this recording... worth the wait.

In my studies of the music of Philip Glass, I wondered why there was no recording of this symphony. In learning more about this symphony (composed in 2004-2005), I discovered that this symphony was revised (heavy revision to the final movement) by the composer (2008-2009) and newly premiered by the Bruckner Orchester Linz under Dennis Russell Davis. The rhythms are typical Glass (which is not a bad thing) leaving his signature on the peace. The “Toltec” themes are dreamy and very spiritual. You do get a muted and subdued feeling, each movement moves deeper inward into the soul of the peoples of Mesoamerica. All together is is a nice bridge between the Sixth and Eight symphonies. Nice to have it completed and presented here now for all to listen and enjoy.

a slightly different turn of events

I'm a little stunned that this wasn't recoded by Lenoard Slatkin for whom the work was dedicated. It's his birthday gift that delves into the world of mesoamerica, a society who predates some western culture. The three movements are meant to represent the Wirrarika sacred trinity with corn being mother earth , Hikuri being a door to the spiritual world (pyote?) the blue deer as the holder of knowledge. What the blue deer is could be anyone's guess but for Glass it is Slatkin who is a man of musical knowledge. Being part NDN I was a little put off by the cheeky alusions to native musics which border on stereotypes of 1950 westerns. Still it's an attempt to broaden one's horizen even if it is a little stilted. The symphony itself almost doesn't sounld like typical Glass until the last movement. This appears to be a shift in Glass's apprach to minimalism and could signal a shift style in the next coming years. All in all it was a decent effort. -Bz

Not bad

I found this album to be marginal. Glass' works are sometimes derided for their "simplicity" when in fact they are rather complex works. This just seems to be noise to me. I find him at his best in works like his Violin Concerto and some of his film scores. If you're new to Philip Glass, I recommend avoiding this one and checking out some of his other scores.

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Customer Ratings