Manson leads MCO in concert, new recording of Philip Glass music

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When Michael Cunningham was writing his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Hours, he was deeply influenced by the music of Philip Glass.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/09/2011 (4163 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When Michael Cunningham was writing his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Hours, he was deeply influenced by the music of Philip Glass.

In fact, the novelist has been listening to Glass, a giant among contemporary composers, since the early 1970s. “His music is, to some degree, part of everything I’ve written,” the author has said.

So when Glass signed on to compose the soundtrack for the 2002 movie adaptation of The Hours — starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep as melancholy women linked by Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway — it seemed “both inevitable and too good to be true,” the writer said.

SUPPLIED PHOTO 'Philip Glass has a very, very powerful connection to people.'

The celebrated soundtrack, often described as haunting, poignant and mesmerizing, earned Glass an Academy Award nomination.

Like the Glass score for the Twyla Tharp ballet In the Upper Room, which the Royal Winnipeg Ballet danced last season, the music from The Hours weaves repeated aural strands into a relentless, hypnotic emotional “weather” that immerses the listener as it shifts and builds.

Tonight at Westminster United Church, Michael Riesman, the pianist on the movie soundtrack and the long-standing musical director of the Philip Glass Ensemble, performs a suite from The Hours as part of an all-Glass season-opening concert with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra.

The performance also includes a Riesman arrangement of music Glass composed to accompany the 1931 movie Dracula (originally performed by the Kronos Quartet in 1999), plus Glass’s 1995 Symphony No. 3.

There couldn’t be a more direct link to the 74-year-old Glass than Riesman, who has been collaborating with the prolific composer for more than 35 years. Riesman has conducted and played such acclaimed Glass movie scores as The Truman Show, Notes on a Scandal, The Thin Blue Line and Koyaanisqatsi, as well as seminal Glass works such as Einstein on the Beach.

But the MCO’s own music director, U.S.-based Anne Manson, has also earned the confidence and admiration of Glass. Four years ago, Manson conducted Glass’s opera Orphée. Glass’s recording company, Orange Mountain Music, decided to capture the production when it was revived at Oregon’s Portland Opera in 2009, again with Manson conducting.

“It was actually a little nerve racking,” she remembers, because Glass couldn’t get to Portland until the dress rehearsal — too late, really, to change anything he didn’t like about her interpretation.

Fortunately, he loved it. That led to Orange Mountain Music asking Manson to record a disc of orchestral Glass works. While his Symphony No. 3 has been recorded before, she says, the suites based on The Hours and Dracula have not. With those three pieces chosen, Manson told Orange Mountain she wanted the MCO to make the recording.

So after tonight’s show, the orchestra, Manson and Riesman will perform the same program in Guelph and Waterloo, Ont., then head to Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio to record the disc.

Though the Baltimore-born Glass is an icon who has composed more than 20 operas and eight symphonies — and collaborated with artists from David Bowie to Woody Allen — Manson realizes that some orchestral music lovers may still need a nudge to give him a chance.

“It’s certainly not dissonant ‘creaky door’ music,” she says. “In The Hours and Dracula there are some really beautiful melodies. He’s got a fantastic sense of theatre. . . .

“My mother, I wouldn’t say she had ever expressed any interest in Philip Glass, until one time she was on a long drive and they were relaying Satyagraha (Glass’s opera about Mahatma Gandhi) from the Met live.

“She listened to the entire thing and then called me in tears. She was so moved by it.

“(Glass) has found a language that is really resonant with the contemporary world — a language that is very easy to assimilate and be moved by. . . .

“That’s rare for contemporary composers. Very often, you get a connection with other musicians, and a moderate reaction from the general public. But Philip Glass has a very, very powerful connection to people.”

alison.mayes@freepress.mb.ca

 

Concert preview

The Music of Philip Glass

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