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CD Review

Philip Glass

Cello Concerto #2 "Naqoyqatsi"

Matt Haimovitz, cello
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Dennis Russell Davies
Orange Mountain Music 0087
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According to the notes, in 2001 Philip Glass wrote the music for the third film in a trilogy from director Godfrey Reggio, titled "Naqoyqatsi: Life as War." The film contained only images and music, and so the composer wished to create a score that was more symphonic and less abstract, one that the audience could connect with. It sounds ironic that Glass would go out of his way to be less abstract, but he did indeed write the score. Upon being asked to be a Creative Director by the Cincinnati Symphony, Glass was also commissioned to transform this score into a cello concerto. Here is the first recording of it, with Glass-specialist Dennis Russell Davies and the very versatile Matt Haimovitz. The result is very successful.

This is Glass in every way, but in a more popular and boisterous idiom. The repetition and echoes of minimalist technique are still present, but the scoring and mood is true Hollywood. The music is vivid, impassioned, and even witty at times. Haimovitz is a wonderful soloist, and he plays all his solo work with conviction and the utmost musicality. Dennis Russell Davies has seemingly been conducting Glass forever, and the Ohio native leads the commissioning forces in an exceptional accompaniment, one which does indeed stress the symphonic nature of the piece, but also it's simplicity and humanity.

For me, Philip Glass is an acquired taste. His music, while fascinating and almost always challenging, can tire the ear, and even the mind with the complexity of both the music and of the questions Glass seems to ask. But here we have an entirely accessible piece, part concerto and part film score, that should please fans of both genres. Orange Mountain Music provides fine sound, and the acoustic of Cincinnati's Music Hall is faithfully reproduced. Even the short playing time is not an issue, just play the disc again. A very pleasant surprise, and a new way to look at one of our great living composers.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman