BBC Music Magazine: Review of Philip Glass Cello Concerto No. 2 ‘Naqoyqatsi"

December 12, 2013

glass Philip Glass

Philip Glass

This Concerto grew from music Glass composed in 2001 for Naqoyqatsi, his third collaboration with the innovative documentary director, Godfrey Reggio. Glass had completed his first Cello Concerto (dedicated to, and premiered by, Julian Lloyd Webber) shortly before, but it was not until a decade later that he decided to turn the film score into a ‘proper’ concerto. I’m familiar with the first films in the trilogy, Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi but haven’t seen Naqoyqatsiapparently its images were largely digitally created. And Glass wanted to composer ‘a very acoustic piece that could be played by a real orchestra’.

Like its predecessor, while this Concerto has Glass’s fingerprints (jabbing chords, insistent ostinatos, imperious heavy-weight brass figures, stately cascading melodic motifs, clear harmonic movement) all over it, it includes some lilting, lyrical melodic lines for the soloist and members of the orchestra, sometimes giving the piece a neo-Romantic flavour while remaining very clearly classic Glass.

Matt Haimovitz’s tone and shaping of phrases achieve a fine balance between the expression of emotion and sentiment on one hand and robust assertion in the face of the inexorable progress of the orchestra. Dennis Russell Davies controls both delicate episodes and powerhouse passages with his customary skill.

PERFORMANCE: 5 Stars

RECORDING: 5 Stars

By: Barry Witherden

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