Glass: Symphony No. 3; Interlude No. 1 from The Civil Wars; Interlude No. 2 from the Civil Wars

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: Symphony No. 3; Interlude No. 1 from The Civil Wars; Interlude No. 2 from the Civil Wars
PERFORMER: Stuttgart CO, Vienna RSO/Dennis Russell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79581-2
Philip Glass might be all rippling arpeggios to some, but this remarkably subdued disc presents quite a different composer. The Symphony No. 3, in particular, shows the composer’s increasing concern with such basic musical elements as form and melody: themes and textures reappear from one movement to another, and the sometimes dissonant harmony is often reluctant to settle in any particular key. It’s a pleasing work, with an easy elegance, although the third movement chaconne revisits familiar territory which any Glass fan will have heard dozens of times already. The Symphony was written for the 19 solo strings of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, and while their performance is admirably precise, it’s sometimes a little bland: a greater sense of urgency would have been welcome. Elsewhere, the two interludes from Robert Wilson’s epic theatre project the CIVIL warS are inoffensive and evocative, while Glass is keen to play down any connection between the ‘Mechanical Ballet’ from his opera The Voyage and Antheil’s Ballet mécanique – not that any of Antheil’s wacky industrial wit has rubbed off on this rather tame piece. The Light celebrates two US scientists whose work contributed to the discovery of the speed of light with suitably high, clear orchestration and Glass’s trademark slow build-ups, but it’s all a little thin. Recorded sound is, sadly, sometimes a little hissy, and occasionally lacks the clarity that Glass’s textures demand. David Kettle