Philip Glass composed 'The Light' to commemorate the Michelson-Morley experiment confirming the uniform speed of light. It is one of his early neo classical works, written in the same year as his Violin Concerto: 1987, but it is not in the same league. Its all very pleasant in a light classical kind of way and the composer plays with his limited amount of material in a reasonably inventive manner that keeps the work moving for about 16 minutes. The problem is that leaves 8 minutes of needless repetition after that. Fans of Glass may think that I haven't got the point. But I have. In the Violin Concerto the endlessly repeated figures build into something, but here they just keep on going and eventually become wearing.
So to the Heroes Symphony (1996), designed as a six movement Symphony and ballet piece. David Bowie's `Heroes' album (1977)is a considerable achievement. It is at its most exciting in the glorious collisions of rock and dance on tracks like `Beauty and the Beast', `Joe the Lion' and `Blackout'. These tracks are bursting with possibilities for adventurous reinterpretation by a cutting edge composer, especially one creating a dance work. But Glass turns his back on the most adventurous tracks on the album and chooses mainly the simpler more electronically based ones to interpret in what is a pretty insipid style. If anything shouts from the music here it is `Missed Opportunity!!!'
Harsh words? I think not. First movement `Heroes' is the strongest thing here, serving as a march like introduction to the Symphony. 'Abdulmajid' is half off-the-peg middle eastern tune, half James Bond ratchetting-up-the-tension sequence. 'Sense Of Doubt' descends into outright farce when it begins with the type of series of ominous descending chords that usually herald the entrance of The Baddie in a pantomime. In general the symphony is 46 minutes of inoffensive bland music, as if Glass has taken the Heroes album and stuck it in the washing machine on the `Heavy Soil' programme until anything tense, troubling or messy has been eliminated to reveal the shining white cloth he presents us with here. The thing is - it was the very things he has washed out that made the music interesting in the first place.
As usual The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Marin Alsop do a magnificent job with the material they have been given, but they can't improve the music. However they may be the reason I am giving this three rather than two stars.