INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Times MAY 14, 2010 - by Hilary Finch
PHILIP GLASS ENSEMBLE AT THE DOME, BRIGHTON
Music In 12 Parts is a compendium of the vocabulary of techniques appearing in Glass's music up until 1970 or so with scarcely a hint of the seduction of his opera writing.
Brian Eno's first encounter with Philip Glass's Music In 12 Parts was apparently "one of the most extraordinary musical experiences" of his life. Small wonder then that, as guest director at the Brighton Festival this year, Eno chose to present the work, in a four-hour evening, as one of the high points of this festival's somewhat low-profile classical music programme.
Glass's own ensemble, directed by Michael Riesman, and with Glass at one of the three electric organs, was responsible for this rare live performance. And if the evening seemed a bit of a slog, and not as alluring as later Glass, this was because Music In 12 Parts is, self confessedly, a compendium of the vocabulary of techniques appearing in Glass's music up until 1970 or so. There's scarcely a hint of the sensuous seduction of his opera writing: rather, we feel as though we're being taken through a treatise point by point.
The dominance of the electric organs over the flutes and saxophones (at least in this particular sound design) was also trying to the ear - which irresistibly tunes in either to them or to the soprano voice. You have to work hard to concentrate on the complexity of morphing metres and figurations in and around.
It's slow torture for the singer. Lisa Bielawa seemed on the point of fainting as she grabbed for bottled water and a few seconds' respite in the first group's endless repetitions of what sounded like "ret-si", intoned time and again.
Later in the evening, figuration expanded and shrank, with sharp harmonic breaks, as Glass's great head fell and rose. Later still, ornamentation teased the ear just when it was in most acute need of diversion. And the rest - aahh - was silence.