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4.2 out of 5 stars
34
4.2 out of 5 stars
Glass: Violin Concerto
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 11 March 2003
The first work on this disc, Company, shows Glass at his most telling, using the basic building blocks of minimalism to achieve the maximum of musical richness and contrasts.
It is instructive to compare Glass' Violin concerto with his fellow American John Adams'. Adams takes on the whole late romantic/early modern tradition of Violin Concertos: structurally, harmonically and pschycologically (think for instance of the troubled soul of Elgar's violin concerto)and builds something strange, wonderful and new. Glass focuses on structures, opting for a classic 18th century fast-slow-fast one) and produces a Paginini like showmanship from his endlessly repeated musical figures. But there is more going on, for instance, half way through the first movement I was surprised by a counter melodic line from the strings which could have been borrowed straight from a symphony by the early 20th century British composer Bax. The piece ends on a high - and fast- note - after 25 attention keeping minutes.
The final two tracks are selections from Glass' Opera Ankhaten.
they are fine as far as they go but do not constitute any kind of complete work. With the CD clocking in at only 52 minutes there are 28 free minutes which could have been used to more fully represent the Opera.
The playing is top notch, especially the solo violin in the concerto. If you want to compare the Adams and Glass concertos you may wish to buy a CD that features both (there are several available)If you already have the Adams (or don't wish to buy it) this is an excellent version of the Glass.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 1 March 2015
Philip Glass has always struck me as a very good film composer, his scores for The Hours and Bent contributing to the feeling of the sublime that both of those films achieve. To an extent, it is the kind of music that seems ideally suited to accompanying images - it is the spur to emotion, a kind of blank canvas that builds through layers and small variations in texture and figuration to unleash whatever it is ... some kind of torrent, in any case. You start to concentrate on chord changes in minute details, as if fascinated by patterns - the blankness starts to appear like canvas onto which the essence of emotion can be projected using the the most elemental shapes, as in, say, Mark Rothko. Pacing, chord progression, and layering of sound seem to be the elements involved. It is a kind of perpetual motion, like life itself. The texture of violins playing fast across the strings is always thrilling, and Glass exploits it brilliantly in the Violin Concerto, both in the solo instrument and the massed forces of the orchestra. The brass sometimes blares fantastically. There is no concession to the kind of melody that would take us out of its rainbow arc by providing a kind of paragraphing - this goes in one enormous wave. The sound of the solo violin is at times a bit like Prokofiev's 2nd Concerto - glinting is if in bright sunlight. The length of the movements seems just right, each one slightly more developed than the last. Adele Anthony plays it with the right natural expressiveness and edge to the faster passagework, and the Ulster Orchestra under Takuo Yuasa seem to live and breathe these scores. The other two works provide further variation on the style, like being taken into different shades of blue, but all hypnotic, all pulling you in, all suggesting some unseen power, seeking out an image in the eye of the soul.
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on 9 November 2012
Minimilism is not new! Incidentally, I would prefer to call the use of fragments in this repetitive way "cyclicalism". I am of course fully aware that this term is used on a "grander" scale for the sort of thread that winds through a number of works, Dvorak's 9th Symphony being a supreme example.

One of music's greatest innovators, Franz Joseph Haydn, uses the technique as far back as 1770 in the finale to his Symphony No. 41. If you have not already come across this work, then I suggest you make its acquaintance as soon as possible. Haydn is, of course, without question one of the least understood and appreciated of the great composers. However, Haydn did not build his corpus on the short motif principle in the extreme manner adopted by Glass and his disciples. But Haydn was the supreme master in the use of the short motif and I am sure in his early studies Glass must have been aware of this.

Domenico Scarlatti, too, was working in this fashion: I could point to many of his 500 or so so-called harpsichord sonatas in which repetition is the key. And in a broader sense we may include J S Bach (e.g. Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, first movement). There are some quasi-minimalist examples from J Brahms, notably the first section of the String Sextet No. 2, Opus 36 first movement, first section. Also the String Quintet No. 2, Opus 111 first movement first section accompaniment; and no doubt there are many others.

Music is unique amongst the arts in the sense that it requires allotted time for its rendition. Therefore, with the ever-growing quantity of music at our disposal the more difficult does it become to find that time in which to listen to or study it, let alone do it justice.

As for this Concerto by Glass? When I first heard it, I was in danger of underestimating the composer's ability to gauge the listener's forbearance. Art is about scale, and true art is a harmonization with the natural world. From Palestrina to Bruckner, from Schoenberg to Glass and on, the work has to be appropriate to the duration in time it has in which to breathe. Therein lies the essence: the heartbeat. Yes, Glass knows what he is doing all right, and this performance of the Violin Concerto is spot on.

John (C) Vetterlein
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VINE VOICEon 7 March 2004
This is the only unofficial Glass recording in my extensive collection (that is to say not approved and supervised by the composer and produced by his longtime collaborators Kurt Munkasci and Michael Riesman). It is though the finest available recording of one of Glass' best orchestral works, his Violin Concerto. Pungent, bracing and evocative - the Concerto is one of Glass' most accesible and attractive works, and here receives the performance it deserves. Powerful, perfectly paced, energetic and moody - the soloist and orchestra realise the piece marvellously, and are matched by the more than capable production. It is far superior to the more pricey Deutsche Grammophon recording featuring soloist Gidon Kremer. That was poorly paced and the recording was abysmal (plus it was oddly paired with an ugly atonal piece by Schnittke). Here it is paired with 'Company', originally scored for string quartet, and a powerful rendition of two pieces from 'Akhnaten', Glass' landmark opera from 1984.
A must for all Glass fans, and a good introduction to newcomers immune to the usual Glass-phobe cliches. A little gem.
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on 7 February 2001
This is a great CD of fabulous music by America's pre-eminent classical/minimalist composer. The violinist has a real grasp of the music and she plays on a rare and beautiful instrument. The three excerpts from arguably his best opera - Akhnaten - may be played too slow for some tastes but they work for me. This is a highly enjoyable disc and I have recommended to all my friends who eschew the blandishments that Philip Glass's music has to offer......
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on 29 December 2005
The Glass Violin concerto,along with the James Dillon is one of the most visceral and exciting violin concertos of recent times.It stands up surprisingly well without being married to dance(i first encountered it in that context)or film and is totally compelling in its own right.There's not much to it really:the familiar minor key arppegios,churning rhythms and static harmonies but it's all woven together with such irresistable flair that it's impossible to resist.
A pairing with the rather anodyne (designer music)Violin Concerto of John Adams might've been more appropriate than the plodding 'Company'and dance from 'Akhnaten'.The Prelude to that opera (also on this disc)is on more inspired territory.
Strongly recommended for the violin concerto,even for Glass sceptics.
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on 23 March 2015
Very good
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on 16 August 2003
Glass' violin concerto is the core of this selection and the reason why I bought it. Glass can be magnificently meditative at his best and Tasmanian Adele Anthony pulls this out brilliantly with the sort of pure tone and crisp playing this piece needs.
The problem is with the accompanying pieces. Company, which precedes and the two excerpts from Akhnaten, which follow, are fine in their way. In fact the Prelude to Akhnaten is one of the finest pieces of one of the finest operas of recent times. It's just that the trouble with Glass is that be can be so... well, repetitive. The filler works sound too much like the Violin Conerto to be paired successfully with them. If Naxos were to pair this off with something suitably mellow by another contemporary composer - say Rutter or Pärt - they'd have a much stronger proposition.
As a Belfast man born and bred, I might be biased, but the Ulster Orchestra and their principal guest conductor Takuo Yuasa gave a good enough account of themselves here, and given the super budget price of this CD, the competition would have to be something special to justify the extra cost.
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VINE VOICEon 30 January 2008
I don't know that much about Philip Glass & co. (a minimal amount?) but, to me, this is modern music that's immediately accessible and which tries to engage in terms of its musicality rather than its philosophy or its aesthetic creed.

There are affinities with precursors. It's possible to see a direct link between the Violin Concerto, for instance, and works of the Baroque period, with its use of repeated phrases, arpeggios, double stopping and so on. Its repetition is not tiresome repetition per se, however, and the piece is always varied and concise enough to say what it needs to in under 25' - another link with the Baroque.

There are those who complain that this concerto represents an unacceptably reactionary step on the part of Glass. But these are presumably critics who would prefer to think of themselves as members of a very exclusive club, one that is implicitly anti-populist. (On the Baroque theme again, Bach managed to be simultaneously popular and cerebral - something worth emulating, perhaps?) What does seem a little reactionary in this recording though is the occasional heavy vibrato of Adele Anthony which you'd think would be more appropriate for Max Bruch or Felix Mendelssohn than for contemporary music like this.

On balance, however, this Naxos recording is a real triumph. The companion pieces are also pithy and engaging (Company especially, less so Akhnaten for me). And at unbeatable value, of course.
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on 10 March 2012
An absolute must for any violin fan. Superb arrangements, layered beautifully. The second movement of the violin concerto is particularly moving. Truly stunning.
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