For performers, the problem with Philip’s music is that it’s like Mozart’s: as the saying goes, it’s too easy for the amateur and too difficult for the professional. You absolutely have to play in tune, and be able to articulate the rhythms exactly with nuances without rubatos (unless you intend to use them). You have to let the tempos have their pace and their time. His music isn’t helped by 21st-century virtuosity.
Dennis Russell Davies conducts the Bruckner Orchester Linz in the world premiere of Glass’s Symphony No. 11 on 31 January at New York’s Carnegie Hall
Composer Nico Muhly
One of things Philip Glass has done that is so key is the way that his early works invite composers to make their own band. The idea is to find your own sound – for him, it’s that early combination of electric organs, flutes, saxophones and the human voice. You don’t need to wait for an orchestra to call you to write a piece; you can sharpen your teeth on something you’ve created yourself.
Having worked for Philip as an editor, I know his work really intimately, but it still has the power to surprise me. Take his Eighth Symphony, for instance – you have these large structures and weird ritornellos. And I’m always surprised by his last Piano Etude, No. 20, whenever I hear it. What I think is alluring about much of his music is that you enter it just as you walk into a piece of sacred architecture. Even though there are a lot of individual details that can surprise you, there’s a sense of beautiful inevitability about what goes where. There’s a sense of the eco-system of the piece being somehow familiar, even if you haven’t been there before.
Nico Muhly worked as an editor and conductor for Philip Glass from 1999-2008
Harpist Lavinia Meijer
I think Philip Glass will be mentioned years from now as one of the composers who shaped music in the 20th century. He has had an important influence on the younger generation of composers, and is also able to put his music in a much wider perspective, connected to so many different artforms, artists and cultures, and to political aspects too.