Glass: Les Enfants Terribles

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Glass
LABELS: Orange Mountain Music
ALBUM TITLE: Glass operas
WORKS: Les Enfants Terribles
PERFORMER: Christine Arand, Philip Cutlip, Hal Cazalet, Valerie Komar; Philip Glass, Nelson Padgett, Eleanor Sandresky (keyboard)/Karen Kemensek
CATALOGUE NO: OMM 0019
This work is the final instalment of Glass’s trilogy of works based on the writings of Jean Cocteau, the others being La Belle et la Bête and Orphée. It also happens to be a superb addition to the Glass discography and yet another indicator that the independently-run recording operation is surely the way of the future for anything but the mass market: this latest recording from Orange Mountain, a company entirely devoted to Glass’s music, joins its already distinguished catalogue in hoisting the quality and integrity of the composer’s available recorded output.

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Les Enfants sees Glass collaborating with Susan Marshall to produce a hybrid music/dance/theatre piece based on Cocteau’s narrative, an intense, introspective fable in which the increasingly perverse imaginary world created by two children is eventually intruded upon and destroyed by external reality. The musical component of the piece is formally a chamber opera: scored for four vocalists and multiple pianos – anyone who enjoyed Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat will be at home here – its condensed instrumentation perfectly reflects the claustrophobia-inducing plot. The performances and recorded sound are of the highest order (the sound having been a slight letdown on earlier Orange Mountain releases) and the music itself, which sees Glass’s distinctive style expertly applied to the tensions and conflicting forces which propel the narrative along its inexorable course, is utterly compelling. Roger Thomas