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Philip Glass: Einstein on the Beach (feat. Robert Wilson)

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Album Review

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

Customer Reviews

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

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.

Great opera, decent recording

The definitive recording, according to Glass, is the 1993, which is available elsewhere. The sound is more polished, the performances more informed, and the direction and musicianship more matured. Nonetheless, this earlier recording gives a glimpse into the historical early performances, and it’s hard not to recommend Einstein on the Beach in any shape or form.


Genre: Classical

b. 31 January 1937, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Glass was educated at the University of Chicago and the Juilliard School of Music before going to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger between 1963 and 1965. By this time he knew that ‘playing second fiddle to Stockhausen didn’t seem like a lot of fun.... There didn’t seem to be any need to write any more of that kind of music. The only thing to do was to start somewhere else...’ He did not know where that point was until he was hired to work on an Ornette...
Full Bio

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