LABELS: Elektra Nonesuch
WORKS: Einstein on the Beach
PERFORMER: Philip Glass Ensemble/Michael Riesman
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79323-2 DDD
Those of us who grew up, Minimally speaking, on the LP boxed set of Einstein always knew that, while our four discs of this post-operatic extravaganza added up to two and three quarter hours, the original production in the theatre was famous for lasting almost twice that, without a break. This new recording – made with the cast (a few of them the same as on the 1978 LPs) which toured the work in 1992 to just about everywhere except Britain – is some 35 minutes longer.
The Philip Glass/Robert Wilson Einstein is one of the masterpieces of modern music theatre, and its score – with only numbers or solfège syllables for sung text – is among the most joyous, and disturbing, of our time: hard-edged and without sentimentality. The CDs offer not only sharper performances (Gregory Fulkerson is a particularly fine Einstein, portrayed not by a singer but by a violinist), sometimes suitably faster speeds, more repetitions (not quite always a blessing outside the theatre) and a generally much better recording, but also – as in the ‘Building’ scene in the last act – a new expressivity coupled with a slower interpretation. A pity the booklet notes on such a complex work aren’t clearer. But a must. Keith Potter