Philip Glass with members of the Philip Glass Ensemble, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the L.A. Master Chorale
Photo: mine 2009
Say what you will about his music, but Philip Glass has been enjoying a resurgence in notoriety over the last few years. Past are the days of jabs from the writers of South Park
and now Glass enters the era of big revivals at the Metropolitan Opera and, this week, a solo show at the Hollywood Bowl with the Philip Glass Ensemble and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I’ve often suspected that it is much more fun playing music at the Bowl than listening to it there, and my curiosity was confirmed when Glass spoke from the stage at the opening of the show about his dream to play his music at the “Triple Crown” of concert venues: Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, and now, the Hollywood Bowl. And though the comparison is flattering to our lovable landmark, I’m not sure I buy it.
But it was a good night to see thousands of people show up for a program with none of the usual standard comfort foods that make up classical concerts. It was an enthusiastic and loving crowd for this composer on a roll. The evening was mostly centered on a performance of his score for Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance
in a new arrangement by the composer to include full orchestra, accompanied here with a screening of the film. It’s intriguing to see this admittedly dated film at this point, particularly in that it, more than anything else, established Glass in the American conscience. It's not his strongest work. The score pales in comparison to most of his operas, and it can be listless in the first ten minutes. The film itself can be heavy handed even for a 90 minute music video. But there are many wonderful passages and the performance at the Bowl was very, very good. As the score enters "The Grid" and "Microchips," things begin to come alive with the teeming energy that the composer is famous for. I'm not sure how necessary the new orchestration was. Despite the occasional tuba or strings, the new arrangement sounded much like the old one in the Bowl with the majority of sound coming from the Philip Glass Ensemble. I should also note a completely great performance from the L.A. Master Chorale that again proved why they are a first choice ensemble for new music.
But it wasn't solely about Koyaanisqatsi
. The evening opened with three short pieces - the solo piano "Opening" from Glassworks
as well as "Facades". There was also the final "Sapceship" sequence from Einstein on the Beach
. Glass played in all of the segments and the short snipets were reminders of just how good his music can be. So maybe it wasn't my dream Philip Galss concert, but for this huge venue in this city on a Thursday no less, it was an event to remember.
Labels: Hollywood Bowl 09