Norman Lebrecht October 22, 2021
The latest in our series of reviews by Alastair Macaulay of the Philharmonia’s 75th anniversary year captures last night’s concert of unequals: Philip Glass and John Adams:
Philharmonia Orchestra and the Labèque Sisters; Glass and Adams 2021.x.22
by Alastair Macaulay
Even so, Glass remains a central figure in the music of our time; it’s good that his work is included in the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Human/Nature season this autumn….
It was for these two famous Labèque sisters that Glass composed his “Double Orchestra for Two Pianos and Orchestra” (2015), and for them that his longterm collaborator Michael Riesman created, in 2020, the “Les Enfants Terribles Suite” from Glass’s 1996 opera. This revised program was not all-Glass: it now ended with the “Doctor Atomic Symphony” by another minimalist, ten years Glass’s junior, John Adams.
Glass’s “Prelude to Akhnaten” (1982-1983), the oldest and most familiar item of the programme, opened the program. This will always be a perfect example of Glass style: there’s real poetry in its recyclings, its changes of pulse, its ancient-and-modern soundworld, its intimation that we’re hearing the inexorable workings of history.
The “Enfants Terribles Suite” that followed proved, to my surprise, the evening’s masterpiece. …...Glass’s complete “Enfants Terribles” – the second of three Glass works based on Jean Cocteau creations – is a danced chamber opera (1996). Having never seen it, I now long to – and yet could it equal the intimate beauty of Michael Riesman’s two-piano suite? The Labèques played it with devout objectivity. While each section illustrates the moods and actions of scenes in the narrative, the work overall becomes a subtly and enchantingly poetic series of études.
Here and there are echoes of many older composers (Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy) – yet they’re incidental. This music is an open-sesame of affecting rhythmic structures and intensely atmospheric pianistic colours. I want to call it the finest of the many Glass compositions I’ve heard; I congratulate Riesman on the glorious sensitivity to pianistic sound he conjures here.
pic by: @dajana_roncione
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