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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars worth giving time to, 11 Mar. 2003
This review is from: Symphony No. 5 (Audio CD)
Concept - Five stars

The work is designed as a bringing together of the wisdom shared by the world's religious traditions. A wide range of texts from all major religions and other sources has been chosen and presented in an arc encompassing creation and salvation.

First Impressions - presentation - Five Stars

To start with: the music cannot be seperated from its presentation. If ratings were for packaging this would gain five stars easily. The CD arrives as a work of art in itself. It is acompanied by 12 folded pieces of card, one for each of the 12 sections in the work, each has the texts used in each section printed on it.

First impressions - listening to the work - two stars

On the first playing of the CDs I was dissappointed. The sound and performance are good but the work did not appear to live up to its concept. The twelve sections, which add up to 96 minutes of music, appeared to lack the kind overarching structure which is essential in a symphony. The music itself appeared half thought out and little more than a collage of obvious influences (mostly 18th century - Vivaldi, Handel and Haydn especially)which were being stifled rather than being positvely exploited by minimalist musical devices.
Things did improve in the second half of the work, but the culminative effect of the first six sections was monotony.
Also - for a work in which the text is so important more work appeared to be needed. The literal translations of the texts often sounded unnatural when sung - revised versions of many of the texts to make them more convincing when sung appeared to be needed.

Deeper impressions after further listening - four stars

Further listenings have changed my appreciation of the piece.
It does have a unity achieved by a gradual increase of dynamic intensity and melodic invention from section to section. The overall effect is that despite the composers designation of a three part structure the two discs actually appear as two sections. The first is in the main a quiet gentle choral world of sound - something like a relaxed version Vivaldi's great Gloria. The second disc's greater musical contrasts and greater uses of single voices as well as choir give it more the nature of an oratorio - in style something of a modern update of Handel and Haydn. I have heard this piece compared to Mahler's Eighth Symphony and Beethoven's Missa solemnis. This is understandable as people search around for comparitive musical structures - this is hardly a symphony in any usual sense - but comparison which such masterpieces is not helpful as it it produces expectations that are too high. Taken for what it is this work emerges after repeated listens as a fine piece of music in its own right, belonging to a tradition of extended choral, cantata and oratorio works going back several centuries. If you like style of music you may well like this work. If you come looking for some great symphony, or some new Mahler or Beethoven you will be dissapointed. Enjoy this for its own sake.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, magnificant, 22 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Symphony No. 5 (Audio CD)
Well, so often in recent years Philip Glass' music has been disappointing and I've been forced to listen to his earlier works, like MISHIMA or SONGS FROM LIQUID DAYS, or AKHNATEN, KOYAANISQATSI, GLASSWORKS, etc etc (all on vinyl interestingly enough). I bought his 3rd symphony, and violin concertos, which remain unplayed in my CD collection - seemingly all the PG CDs that I've bought have been very disappointing. But this, the 5th symphony is a return to form. I love this piece of music, it's wonderful, beautiful, transcendental and I keep playing and playing it. The CD case, with its little cardboard lyric sheets of each movement, is also very good. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great work, 28 Oct. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Symphony No. 5 (Audio CD)
A very inspiring work. I have already listened to it a hundered times. Glass is probably one of the greatest modern composers.
And this is in my view his (this far) greatest work.
The idea to mix all religions is also great!
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glass's usual high standards are not compromised here, 29 April 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Symphony No. 5 (Audio CD)
Philip Glass lives up to his reputation as one of the world's premier modern composers with this work. Written to mark the millenium, Symphony number 5 uses text from the religious works of several religions including the bhagavad gita, the bible and african tribal creation myths.
The performance by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra is beautifully executed under the direction of Dennis Russel Davies and the sound quality and production are faultless.
Some of the music is just wonderful - my particular favourite being movement VII - Suffering, which is one of the finest pieces of modern choral music I've ever heard.
Buy this.
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Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 5 by Philip Glass (Audio CD - 2000)
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