Academic journal article Notes

Philip Glass

Academic journal article Notes

Philip Glass

Article excerpt

Philip Glass. String Quartets Nos. 1-4. Naxos 8.559636, 2010.

Those whose only exposure to the music of Philip Glass has been through his celebrated work for stage and film may be taken aback by this recording of his first four string quartets. Familiar elements of his style are certainly present--the relentless unison arpeggiation; the clear, even adamant tonal centers; the rudimentary harmonic progressions--but they are scattered throughout these pieces rather than constant, or they appear in mutant form. The four quartets span a period of just over two decades, and their arrangement in the program is curious: Glass's first quartet was written in 1966, while the influence of his teacher Nadia Boulanger was still fresh and he was experimenting with his compositional voice. It is clearly a work of proto-minimalism, filled with repetition and small motifs, yet at the same time its melodic content is stark and spiky and obviously informed by mid-century atonality. Although this piece helps to provide a useful context for his later quartets, it is for some reason featured third on the program, after the second quartet, from 1983 (a dour and brooding but thoroughly beautiful set of four movements written as interludes for a staging of the Samuel Beckett play Company) and the third, from 1985 (based on Glass's score for a film about the life and suicide of writer Yukio Mishima). …

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