Arts & Culture Blog
World Premiere Duos by Philip Glass Dazzle at Days & Nights
August 27, 2011
It's partly due to the eerie repetition of Philip Glass's compositions, but also the improbability of Hidden Valley itself as a venue—elegantly clad musicians in floor length gowns playing a concert hall fashioned after an old barn, in the middle of Carmel Valley—that Friday's performance at first required a suspension of disbelief.
But in a world premiere of five new duets by Glass, it didn't take long for his signature sound—the cascading upward and downward scales offset by a half step, lurching into minor keys at first unnerving, then strangely comforting, like treading water after a surge forward—to penetrate the bright cello (Matt Haimovitz) and violin (Maria Bachmann).
These artists get as much sound as they can out of their instruments, making contact with every square millimeter of their bows; the duos are heavy on double stops, there are four strings in action for long stretches, making for a big sound.
Arnold Schoenberg's Verklaerte Nacht (Transfigured Night) is, at 30 minutes in length, truly an epic. Composed early (1899), it precedes his busting up of the rules of tonality, which makes it a relatively easy listen. Though a dark piece, the musicians are again big on sound and energy, making even the the harmonics of its lighter sections ghostly and heavy with emotion, not too far from the more mysterious sections characterized by low tremolos and plodding bass line.
To hear the work of a composer who so often writes to accompany theater and film stripped of those media is to understand why it is that Glass is so good at that evocative work. His Symphony No. 3, adapted for a sextet (from an ensemble of 19), transports from jazz club offbeats to Middle Eastern folk, all the while proceeding forward, but it's something of an intellectual exercise to follow the disparate threads.
The Days and Nights Festival continues through Sept. 4; for tickets and schedule, go to www.daysandnightsfestival.com.