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Customer Reviews

Best Glass Symphony

Some may disagreee and would consider Glass Symphony No.3 for String Orchestra his best, but I believe No.8 is the composer's best essay in being symphonically conceptual. Balancing no less than eight themes in a seemless confluence makes for an incredible effect in the first movement. The sections are anchored by what Glass calls "stretto" sections. Glass, mostly known for his theater music (opera and film) has never spoken so directly in the language of what is most frequently called absolute music. This symphony shows what symphonic chops the composer has. The second movement, a Shostakovichian passacaglia is truly heartbreaking. It rivals any of the sadest music ever written. The climax for flute and harp is incredible beautiful. The third movement provides the most unexpected ending for a symphony so grand in scale. The thrilling 19 minute first movement leads to the 12 minute second, and finally to the 6 minute third movement. Most people expect a rousing finally in line with tradition, but after the emotional catharsis of the second movement, Glass eases us away with a mellow third movement. Fighting tradition, we do not receive our big ending and we do not win ourselves a Sibelian rapture and send off into eternity. Glass leaves us very much back where we started in the real world. A thrilling beginning, a cathartic middle, and an assumptive conclusion. As people we move forward with out experiences.


Amazing? No... Incredible? No... Undescribable? Yes! I'm blown away by this symphony's depressing sound. It reminds me of Shostakvich. Especialy the second movment. In my opinion music is when sounds are made stimulating the brain recoving memory creating images making the music almost personified. This symphony goes beyong the simple "depressing" or "happy" or "thrilling". It seems to show multiple themes. I will not deeply describe what the theme to me is because music is based on our personal expiriences forming ideas or themes for the music. E.X. If you're relative was hit by a train and died then you would find fear in songs that resemble train like sounds, most people have not gone through that experience so unless another idea that is fearful to them is expressing they will not find the song frightening at all. My point is that this symphony (even more than most music) is different compared to the listener and that's something to admire.

A New Glass Symphony

There's been lots of discussion about Philip Glass's Symphonies. Two have been based on the music of Brian Eno and David Bowie, the second of which also double as ballet music. Symphony No.3 is scored for small string orchestra of strings only. Symphony 5,6 & 7 are set to text in the traditions of Mahler (8) and Beethoven (9). This new Symphony no.8 stands almost alone in Glass's Symphonic output as unique in symphonic content. Arguably the 2nd Symphony could be considered as well because of its proportions and its content-however the Second's preoccupation with 'an exercize of polytonality' and its slender musical material WHEN juxtaposed to that of the 8th, make it clear that Glass had more involved concepts of the traditions of symphonic music when conceiving and writing this piece.
The first movement, at almost 19 minutes, contains multiple sections which state a theme then have its components morph into something else entirely-each time with innovation and beauty. All of these sections are glued together by "stretto" passages (not altogether dissimilar in concept from the five climaxes in the first movement of Mahler 9) which steadily accelerate into cacophonous climaxes. Very exciting stuff.
The second and third movements are lyrically beautiful. The second is based on a harmonic base of a passacaglia which stretches the composer's sense of tonality as far as it has ever gone. And the third movement is comprised of lovely elongated lines which bring the symphony to a close in a somber and beautiful manner.

All in all, this symphony offers mature stylistic and clarified ideas from the composer, as well as an open sense of seriousness and a desire to touch its audience. Lots of innovations; musical material in abundance...incredibly interesting and fascinating. Stylistically not unlike other pieces he has composed, but as strong a piece that has ever come from this unique voice. Highly Recommended!

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