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The Passion of Ramakrishna

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Product details

  • Conductor: Carl St.Clair
  • Composer: PHILLIP GLASS
  • Audio CD (15 Oct. 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Orange Mountain Music
  • ASIN: B008PV6CAI
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 316,362 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Prologue
  2. Part 1
  3. Part 2
  4. Part 3
  5. Part 4
  6. Epilogue
  7. Meetings Along the Edge

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Sri Ramakhrishna is a famous Hindu character of the 19th century. India at the time had been under the domination of the Mughal empire and then the British empire. He was born in the Brahma caste and became a priest in a temple dedicated to Kali. So far nothing special since he was a priest by profession from father to son by his own caste affiliation.

And yet he had a deep influence on India at the time and in the coming decades. He is said to have inspired many, among other Gandhi himself. He advocated a deeply meditative attitude and rejected any asceticism. He defended the cult of Kali seen as the mother of the universe and he dedicated his preaching and life to this mother who was supposed to inspire the respect of the earth, of life and the integrity of man.

This cult of the mother and Kali is fundamental in Hindu culture, though it is too often forgotten by men who defend some kind of conquering carnal domination over women that can go as far as considering having a relation with a woman is some kind of duty for the woman, some kind of right for the man. And we know how far it can go in some quarters. I must say Krishna, the God himself, was typical of this attitude: to conquer the heart of the one he loved he only knew one strategy: make her jealous by the use and abuse of excessive promiscuity.

Sri Ramakrishna rejects that macho attitude and defends the cult of the mother in the woman goddess Kali. He is centered entirely on consciousness though the libretto is not clear about the origin of this consciousness. He asserts at the same time "I myself was consciousness" and "you make me conscious" and "God alone is the Doer.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9ab78bdc) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9acf069c) out of 5 stars Glass magic! 5 Sept. 2012
By Steve Schindler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
"The Passion of Ramakrishna" is a 44 minute oratorio for soloists, chorus, and orchestra, which premiered in 2006, and is one of my very favorite Glass works. Indeed, I was fortunate enough to attend a performance of the work in Nashville, of all places, back in 2007, with Glass in attendance as well.

The work has a prologue, then four parts of approximately nine minutes each, and an epilogue.

The subject matter - the life, teachings and death of a 19th-century Indian holy man, otherwise known as a mystic, Sri Ramakrishna, told largely in his own words - is inspiration for a Glassic- a Glass Classic!

The Ramakrishna speaks via the choir, giving his words and wisdom an extra-human quality. The words of his wife and devotees are given to solo singers, thus creating a fascinating dialogue between the terrestrial and celestial. With its crisp word-setting (usually one note per syllable) and short sentence phrases, the narrative and drama remain front and center. The orchestra provides drive and mood - the latter quickly changing or ruminative, as need be - and introduces spicy harmonies and jagged rhythms.

The ending epilogue section for soloists and chorus is simply amazingly beautiful. As many times as I've listened to this awesome section, which is easily one of the most beautiful things Glass has written, with a text that reads as follows below, I fantasize about giving all the great composers this text and asking them to set it, in a contest (without letting them know how anyone else set it first). Thus finding out who sets it most beautifully, including all of the greats like Beethoven, Handel, Mozart, Bach, Schubert, Wagner, Brahms, Schoenberg, and to any composer alive today:

"O Mother, O Mother, who has offered these red hibiscus flowers at your feet?
I beg of you, O Mother, place one or two upon my head.
Then I shall cry aloud to you, "Oh Mother! Mother!"
And I shall dance around you and clap my hands for joy,
And you will look me and laugh, and tie the flowers in my hair."

Glass repeats this text four times- first with the quintet of soloists, secondly with the soloists and chorus, and with the chorus only for the final two times. Combine this beautiful clinic of writing with such controlled orchestral writing (there's way more instrumentation going on than at first appears), and finally in the inimitable Glass style, is what makes it magical! As you may have figured out by now, I don't think Glass's setting could be topped. I've been caught singing "O Mother, O Mother, who has offered these red hibiscus flowers at your feet" while walking down the hallway at the office leading people to question my sanity, LOL!

Recording quality is very good. Thanks Orange Mountain Music!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9acf06f0) out of 5 stars Choral praise for a great mystic master 4 Sept. 2012
By Martin Weyers - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Composer Philip Glass is known for his longstanding interest in Indian culture and spirituality, that dates back to (at least) his first visit of India in 1966. Also, Glass' early years in Paris come to mind, where he discovered his own musical style through assisting Ravi Shankar on a film score. Glass fans will also remember 'Passages' - a collaboration between those two composers. (The new CD also contains 'Meetings along the edge', originally released on 'Passages'.) The most important of Glass' works though, that refers directly to the subject of Indian music and spirituality, is certainly 'Satyagraha', his famous opera from 1979.

The new work, that premiered in 2006 in Costa Mesa, is a 40 minutes score for chorus, full orchestra and five soloists. The sound reminds a bit on Symphony No. 5 (Choral), that was composed for the Salzburg Festical in 1999. Other than the 5th symphony the more recent piece hasn't been drawn from different sources of "wisdom traditions". The underlying message, however, is pretty much the same, since Ramkrishna taught that all religions lead to the same god.

'The Passion of Ramakrishna' is everything else but minimalist, at least when it comes to sound and emotional impact: The typical (repetitive) Glass ingredients take a backseat, when the opulent chorus retells the story of Ramakrishna, his life, illness and the transformation of death. Glass has succeeded beautifully in turning his inspiration from the Bengali classic, 'The Gospel of Ramakrishna' (by Swami Nikhilananda), into a deeply touching piece of music.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b0f4240) out of 5 stars A Hindu Teaching of World Consciousness 11 Sept. 2012
By Dr. Debra Jan Bibel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a rather straight-ahead religious oratorio in honor of a 19th-century Indian guru, Sri Ramakrishna and the imparting of his teachings to his disciple and to other adepts as he approaches death from throat cancer. The essence is the perception that everything is Divine Consciousness (Mother Kali) and is already united; ego is a blindfold. This Passion is performed by the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale, large ensembles based in Orange County, California. The six characters and their vocal performers are Sri Ramarisha (the chorus); Mahendranath Gupta, the narrator (baritone Christòpheren Nomura); Saranda Devi, Ramarkishna's wife (soprano Janice Chandler Eteme); physician Mahrendra Lal Sarkar (bass Kevij Deas); and two devotees, First (mezzo-soprano I-'Chin Feinblatt) and Second (tenor Nicholas Preston). Glass's music has its dramatic harmonic introductions and interludes and it is largely propulsive with its moderate pulsing waves. While beautiful and soothing in presentation, and certainly well sung and played, I find this piece to be among the lesser group of the composer's products. Perhaps the fairly constant tone and rhythm and the lack dramatic story is the reason. The content, after all, is philosophical, a story of transcendence. The piece does grip and hold the listener, and doubtlessly watching a live performance will bring a stronger and more personal appreciation. [For the record, I subscribe to the core philosophy as a Hua-Yen Buddhist.]
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b0a7e40) out of 5 stars Halfway To Passion 16 Jan. 2013
By G Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A lot of Glass music of the last decade sounds very similar. With much of it there is
not enough quikyness to make works stand out. I can remember Symphony 3
very clearly having heard it six months ago, but I cannot remember this piece
from hearing it twice yesterday. The music is fine and listenable but it does not
excite the imagination. Is Glass rushing through some of his music just to bulk up his
catalogue? Glass is attempting to render spiritual ideas with classical music in this
piece and it does no more than partially satisfy the hearing experience. I probably won't
play this as often as symphony 5.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aba8234) out of 5 stars Soft is that Passion 13 Jun. 2015
By Dr Jacques COULARDEAU - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Sri Ramakhrishna is a famous Hindu character of the 19th century. India at the time had been under the domination of the Mughal empire and then the British empire. He was born in the Brahma caste and became a priest in a temple dedicated to Kali. So far nothing special since he was a priest by profession from father to son by his own caste affiliation.

And yet he had a deep influence on India at the time and in the coming decades. He is said to have inspired many, among other Gandhi himself. He advocated a deeply meditative attitude and rejected any asceticism. He defended the cult of Kali seen as the mother of the universe and he dedicated his preaching and life to this mother who was supposed to inspire the respect of the earth, of life and the integrity of man.

This cult of the mother and Kali is fundamental in Hindu culture, though it is too often forgotten by men who defend some kind of conquering carnal domination over women that can go as far as considering having a relation with a woman is some kind of duty for the woman, some kind of right for the man. And we know how far it can go in some quarters. I must say Krishna, the God himself, was typical of this attitude: to conquer the heart of the one he loved he only knew one strategy: make her jealous by the use and abuse of excessive promiscuity.

Sri Ramakrishna rejects that macho attitude and defends the cult of the mother in the woman goddess Kali. He is centered entirely on consciousness though the libretto is not clear about the origin of this consciousness. He asserts at the same time "I myself was consciousness" and "you make me conscious" and "God alone is the Doer." The ambiguity even goes further when he asserts he can give up "everything at Kali's feet" and yet that he "could not bring myself and give up truth."

When he asserts all "men, animals, and other living beings" are "all pure consciousness" we wonder if they all are contained in consciousness, the consciousness of some god, or if they are consciousness because they only come to some real existence in the consciousness I have of them, hence they are only beings of my consciousness. On one hand all living beings would exist only in the consciousness of God and on the other hand in the divine consciousness I have of them in the truth I find in God himself. That's the absolute and pure illusion of Hinduism as opposed to Buddhism. The real material world only finds some existence through and in the consciousness I have of it, a consciousness that is provided to me by God.

And yet he cannot give up truth at the feet of the goddess though this truth can only be part of his consciousness which is of divine origin and giving it up at the feet of the goddess would only be to give back to God what is God's originally.

That leads to pure contemplation, and yet the libretto cannot avoid falling into a Christian-centered approach of that Hindu thinker when it says "Is this another crucifixion?" And to make sure we understand this Christian-oriented vision the libretto at once expands this crucifixion into "the sacrifice of the body for the sake of the devotees." We don't even know at this moment if the author of this libretto is respectful or if he is mocking this artificial sacrifice, blood sacrifice, crucifixion, or whatever mental and ritual cannibalism.

And the parallelism with Jesus is extended into nearly dying and yet being revived around midnight, and his calling of Kali three times, a trinity of sorts, before dying. That makes the whole story very artificial in its words. I do not find the visionary meditative realism I am used to in Buddhism for example, in the heavy injunction of Buddha himself to strictly consider all material and mental aspects of everything before trying to assess them. I do not find the distance Buddha practiced in front of not reality which is undeniable, but in front of the illusion I may have about it in a frozen consciousness of it that is false because everything changes and hence nothing has any stable and durable essence, nature, self, let alone divine soul.

But you will tell me this is a musical work, and you would be right. The Master Sri Ramakrishna is sung by a choir and that is a musical invention of some sort: the Master is the voice of the people, is the voice of the consciousness the people have of the world. Sarada Devi is naturally a woman since she is the spouse of Sri Ramakrishna. And M. the disciple is a man's voice. The music is extremely repetitive, minimalist some would say, and in fact it is perfect here because it works like any praying mill, any tantra: a short sentence or saying repeated over and over again. The singing on that music makes this humdrum succession of musical tantras slightly fuzzy but basically it remains some ritualistic invocation of the master.

Then the main variation is between some forceful passages that are more grandiloquent than powerful as if power were nothing but force, on one hand, and now and then some softer, more intimate passages that want to be confidential and emotional. Thus I do not really find Hindu music or Indian music because of some constant western reverberation and yet it has kept the circular and mesmerizing, if not hypnotic, dimension of Hindu culture, of the snake charmer and his pipe, but without the pipe's music.

I can see what attracted Philip Glass but his vision is too west- and Christian-centered to really capture the deepest meditative power of this Hindu culture that can inspire one man or woman into some total commitment to the suffering of the world: be ready to walk on incandescent embers, to lie down on a bed of spikes, to stand in front of any danger or menace and defy it to death if necessary. As for a passion to die of cancer is pathetic indeed.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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