I stumbled over the first movement of Philip Glass’ violin concerto on Naxos’ American Classics Sampler. On the first listening the starting bars of it wasn’t that ear-catching, so it took me a while before I listened to the entire first movement. Then I was hooked and had to get the whole concerto. I bought the entire Naxos recording with Adele Anthony on violin and Takuo Yuasa conducting the Ulster Orchestra.
Glass’ violin concerto is a modern work with high qualities. It’s minimalistic without being too repetitive and consistently interesting because of the tension in the solo playing. All three movements are good but especially the first movement knocks my socks off. At the beginning there’s the mixing of time signatures which becomes better for each listening, and in the rest of the concerto the driving forces are the rhytmic counterpoint and averall tension in the music.
The only place in the concerto where I can loose a bit of my attention towards the music is in the middle of the last movement. That doesn’t last long though; close to the end of the concerto my attention is improved considerably by the reintroduced beginning of the first movement.
I am very happy with this recording of the violin concerto and haven’t heard other interpretations that are preferable. On this disc you also get two other works; Company which is an orchestration of Glass’ string quartet No. 2, and two excerpts from his opera Akhnaten. Both the excerpts and Company are interesting works that add to the disc’s seduction.
Other works I wish to recommend are his 1st and 3rd symphony, concerto for cello and orchestra, concerto for two timpanists and orchestra, concerto for harpsichord and orchestra, piano concerto (Tirol concerto), the soundtracks for The Hours, The Illusionist, Naqoyqatsi and Mishima, the string quartets, Itaipu, the solo piano music and the operas Akhnaten and Satyagraha, just to mention a few. And of course, his opera Einstein on the Beach is worth a listen, but it can be hard to digest the whole work without pause…
My work is done. Now it’s you who have to go out and buy some great music.