11 April 2012

Philip Glass - Violin Concerto No.2 "American Four Seasons"

A little while ago I went to a concert by the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and Robert McDuffie in Middelburg. On the program was Shaker Loops by John Adams, Variations for Strings by Tristan Keuris and as the absolute highlight Violin Concerto No.2 "American Four Seasons" by Philip Glass. I already knew quite a bit of Philip Glass (though mainly his piano music) and our trip to Middelburg was mainly inspired by John Adams (who my mum loves) and of course with a healthy curiosity towards the Glass concerto. And boy oh boy was it something else. On bachtrack I wrote:

There are some classical concerts that really portray the absolute essence of what music is all about. If we’re lucky we experience one of these a year, but they’re very hard to come by because these experiences require something very specific. The Amsterdam Sinfonietta and Robert McDuffie’s performance of Philip Glass’ violin concerto The American Four Seasons at the Zeeuwse Concertzaal was one of these concerts. All the ingredients were there: the music, intense enjoyment and passion from the musicians, a modesty in playing and performing that allowed for no hoopla but only music.

And this still accurately portrays my feelings about this performance. The Adams and Keuris pieces were good as well but the Glass concerto really tugged at my heart strings and the performance was fantastic. The Amsterdam Sinfonietta brought their own idiosyncratic oomph to help the music along, and Robert McDuffie is incredible so this will definitely be a concert I'll remember for a long time. And of course, now it's time for all of you to listen to the American Four Seasons:

Philip Glass - Violin Concerto No.2 (American Four Seasons) - Movement 4
Played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Marin Alsop, violin solo by Robert McDuffie.

Philip Glass (1937-) is one of the great American minimalist composers. He's written a whole bunch of soundtracks (such as The Truman Show, The Hours, The Illusionist, Notes on a Scandal and Cassandra's Dream) and some absolutely fantastic piano music, but has also profiled himself as an incredible symphonic writers, with both opera and other music (including 10 symphonies). Glass is probably one of the most well-known composers of the last decades, and he's influenced everyone from David Bowie to Nico Muhly.

Violin Concerto No.2 "American Four Seasons was written in 2009, specifically for Robert McDuffie. It's obviously inspired by Vivaldi's Four Seasons, though in contrast to that work Glass has not specified which of the four main movements depicts which season. In between the movements Glass has inserted small solo pieces for the violin, which is what the concerto also starts with. It's a rhythm-driven work with some insanely beautiful violin parts. Hope you enjoy!

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