Glass: Music in 12 Parts

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LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: Music in 12 Parts
PERFORMER: Philip Glass Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79324-2
Music in 12 Parts (1971-4), for amplified female voice, flutes, saxophones and electronic keyboards, is a vast compendium of Glass’s minimalist techniques. With each part lasting between 12 and 23 minutes, it takes almost three-and-a-half hours and is a musical masterpiece, balancing the purity of its composer’s original manner with greater richness and variety. The chromaticism and chord progressions that help dramatise Parts 9-12 look towards Einstein on the Beach. While lacking the sheer theatricality of Glass’s contribution to that ‘opera’, the earlier composition is loaded with good things. Fascinating combinations of rigorous rhythmic processes and alluring, changing textures make Part 4, for instance, another one to treasure. The playing and wordless singing on this 1993 recording are breathtaking: astonishingly precise, even in the extensive fast arpeggiations, but also constantly alert to both the subtlety and the drama of the music. No Glass fan will want to be without this set, an improvement on the already impressive 1989 version, in any case no longer available. Those who consider the composer’s recent music vacuous might be surprised, too. Keith Potter