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Philip Glass: Songs of Malarepa etc

Martin Achrainer (baritone), Maki Namekawa (piano) (Orange Mountain Music)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Philip Glass
Songs of Milarepa; Songs for Baritone and Piano
Martin Achrainer (baritone), Maki Namekawa (piano)
Orange Mountain OMM 0160   44:18 mins


This fine disc explores ideas of time, truth and existence with mesmeric intensity. Both featured works are adapted from scores for fuller forces, but their reduction to voice and piano only adds to the songs’ laser-like power, especially when performed with such colour and clarity.

The album opens with the premiere recording of Songs of Milarepa, based on the ‘spontaneous poetry’ of ancient Tibetan poet Jetsun Milarepa. The piece is framed by two songs of meditative introspection, while the central ‘Song of the White Staff’ reflects on the journey of a walking stick and swirls with pace and heat. The work is paired with three Songs for Baritone and Piano which sets Allen Ginsberg and Rūmī. By turns uplifting and rueful, the songs explore everything from the power of music to the injustices of the Vietnam War with hypnotic power.

Baritone Martin Achrainer brings terrific stature and nuance to the performance, while Maki Namekawa has long been a pre-eminent interpreter of Glass’s music – indeed, the composer wrote his First Piano Sonata for her. It is no surprise to find her playing is a beautiful match for these scores: subtle, powerful and alert to every tiny shift of colour and mood. A short but powerful collection, this fine album rewards concentrated listening.


Kate Wakeling