Philip Glass: Einstein on the Beach (feat. Robert Wilson)
Philip Glass Ensemble, Philip Glass, Michael Riesman & Robert Wilson
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This opera, composed in 1975 and premiered in 1976, is scored for four principal actors, 12 singers doubling as dancers and actors, a solo violinist, and an amplified ensemble of keyboards, winds and voices. It is imbued with the postmodern spirit both in its non-linear, poetic, mystic narrative and the floating, eternal world created by the shifting, mathematically precise patterns of Philip Glass' modal music. There are three primary visual sets linked to three musical themes that recur within the work: trains (recalling the metaphors Einstein used to illustrate the theory of relativity, and with which he played as a child), a trial setting (modern life and modern science examined), and a spaceship (a metaphor for transcendence, and/or an escape from nuclear disaster). Also, Einstein himself appears midway between the orchestra and the stage as a violinist (his hobby) and as observer/witness. There are also additional spoken texts written by Christopher Knowles, Samuel M. Johnson and Lucinda Childs, which appear in various arrangements for single and multiple voices. This work locates itself as a midpoint between the composer's early-'70s work, linking rhythmic and harmonic structures and his later series of operas and vocal works and film scores employing expanded narrative and/or timbral experiments. ~ "Blue" Gene Tyranny, Rovi
About as good as the original 1979 recording
Unlike what the metadata says in iTunes, this is not the 1979 Tomato Recordings performance, but a performance from the 1984 revival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It is thus somewhat similar to the 1979 version, since it wasn't too long after that recording, but is also a bit different. In many ways, I really like this performance as much as the one I grew up with (the 1979 recording). It sounds less "recorded" and more spontaneous, and there are aspects to it that are not included in the original recording. As such, it is much longer than the 1979 recording and even a bit longer than the later recording from 1993. The 1993 recording is okay, but not anywhere near as good as the previous two recordings.
So this recording, in many ways, is the one to get, although the 1979 recording is one I still have a soft spot for as it was the original and has always seemed very energetic.
Those were the days my friend
I had long hoped that a recording of this 1984 revival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music would be released. I was fortunate to have attended a performance of this, and while I don't remember the particulars, it was a moving and unforgettable experience. This recording has the spontaneity of a live performance, and the more stripped-down sound of the actual performance (especially compared to the later Nonesuch recording). In addition, at 217 minutes, it's by far the longest of the three recordings (until the current revival is released on disc).
In my opinion, this was the pinnacle of Philip Glass's work. While his next couple of operas were good, he fell into a routine and started churning out music that sounded all the same. (Yes, if you don't like minimalism, you may say that it all sounds the same anyway…)
But if you are interested in Glass, you simply must get this recording.
4 stars (but probably 5 after i listen to it a few times)
Awesome! I'm glad this is available BUT if i'm not mistaken, this is a 1984 recording - not '79
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