Happy 80th Birthday Philip Glass

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Photo: Steve Pyke

Philip Glass turned eighty years old today. A celebration was held at Carnegie Hall tonight, a concert by the Bruckner Symphony Linz, led longtime Glass collaborator conductor Dennis Russell Davies in the premiere of the composer’s Eleventh Symphony and Three Yoruba Songs (with vocalist Angélique Kidjo).

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In Nashville tonight, I’m not hearing any live Glass alas, but I am enjoying a brand new recording by Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson. Philip Glass – Piano Works, his debut for Deutsche Grammophon, features interpretations of the Études and excerpts from Glassworks. The Siggi String Quartet joins the pianist on some of the music, reworked to incorporate strings. Both here and in the solo selections, Ólafsson brings to bear a supple sense of phrasing and wide-ranging gestural palette. His playing stands starkly at odds with the seemingly irrepressible notion that ostinatos serve as motoric cogs in a supposedly limited minimalist vocabulary. He finds 1,000 flavors of repetition. Anyone who wants an point of entry to or refresher course on Glass’s music need listen no further than here to find bold, dramatic interpretations of his work.

Arvo Pärt – Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten

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Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is 81 today.

On this solemn day, which is also Arvo Pärt’s 81st birthday, it seemed fitting to share one of his most eloquent pieces of lament.

Happy Birthday Terry Riley!

Happy birthday to composer Terry Riley, who turns 80 today.

There are CD releases out this week to celebrate the composer. My assessment of ZOFO Plays Terry Riley appears in the CD Reviews section of Sequenza 21 and on my blog.

But wait, there’s more.

Nonesuch Records has done right by Riley. They have released One Earth, One People, One Love, a 5-CD boxed set of the complete recordings of Riley’s music composed for Kronos Quartet. The set contains a disc of unreleased tracks, Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector: Music of Terry Riley. For those of you yelling – “No fair! I already have the Kronos discs. I want to buy the unreleased recordings as a separate CD!” – Nonesuch is allowing you to do just that, separately releasing these recordings on a single disc.

Once again, happiest of birthdays Mr. Riley! May you continue to write the eloquently beautiful music we have come to know and love for many years to come.

 

Happy 90th Birthday Pierre Boulez

Composer and conductor Pierre Boulez turns ninety today. This year will see a number of celebrations of his nonagenarian status. Two boxed sets by recording labels with which he has long been associated up the ante for audiophiles.

Pierre Boulez – 20th Century (DG 0289 479 4261 0) is a 44 CD boxed CD featuring Boulez conducting a panoply of music by 20/21 composers: Bartók, Berg, Birtwistle, Debussy, Ligeti, Messiaen, Ravel, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Szymanowski, Varèse, Webern, and Boulez himself. Handsomely yet snugly packaged, it will fit well on the shelf of any enthusiast of modern music. The set was released in February as a limited edition.

March 31st sees the release of Pierre Boulez: The Complete Erato Recordings (Erato 0825646190485), a 14 CD collection. It includes recordings by Xenakis, Donatoni, Grisey, Dufourt, Ferneyhough, Harvey, Höller, and others. These more recent compositions make the boxed set an excellent and complementary companion to the DG set.

Is the prospect of nearly sixty CDs a bit too daunting a starter kit or refresher course? Then perhaps you might prefer Harmonia Mundi’s flash sale. Over at HM’s USA site, you can pick up the Wergo recording of Boulez’s early but essential Structures (WER 6011).

However you choose to celebrate Boulez’s birthday, do celebrate. The contributions he has made to 20/21 concert music can scarcely be measured – even on 57 CDs!