Philip Glass’s Aguas da Amazonia conducted by Kristjan Järvi

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COMPOSERS: Philip Glass
LABELS: Orange Mountain Music
WORKS: Aguas da Amazonia
PERFORMER: MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra; Absolute Ensemble/Kristjan Järvi


As Philip Glass celebrates his 80th birthday this year, his reputation continues to grow with increasing numbers of instrumentalists recasting his music to increase its accessibility. Aguas da Amazonia was originally produced in collaboration with Brazilian group UAKTI, who blend traditional instrumentation with sounds made from everyday materials. Conductor Kristjan Järvi commissioned composer Charles Coleman to rearrange the work for symphony orchestra, performed here by two of Järvi’s four ensembles: the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra and Absolute Ensemble. (It’s worth noting that UAKTI’s Aguas da Amazonia already featured a reimagining of Glass’s Etude No. 2 and the appropriately named Metamorphosis – this music is a shapeshifter.)

Coleman has preserved Glass’s neat lines and distinctive melodies, while emphasising the characterful sound of the symphony orchestra. The river pieces work well; we see and hear the swirly, murky depths of the Amazon. Metamorphosis has punchy woodwind, brass and triangle, with expanded thematic development. It’s a shock for listeners familiar with Glass’s pared back, clean textures, and won’t appeal to die-hard fans, but Coleman’s version plays to the strength of its intended ensembles.


Claire Jackson